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A MAGICIAN 
AMONG THE SPIRITS 


BY 

HOUDINI 

Illustrated 



Publishers 

HARPER & BROTHERS 

New York and London 

MCMXXIV 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Copyright, 1924, by Harry Houdini 
Printed in the United States of America 


First Edition 






SIR ARTHUR CO VAN DOYLE AND HOUDINI PHOTOORAl'HED AT THE AUTO 
CLUB, LONDON, ENGLAND 




IN WORSHIPFUL HOMAGE 

I 

DEDICATE THIS BOOK 

TO THE MEMORY OF MY SAINTED MOTHER 
IF GOD 

IN HIS INFINITE WISDOM 

EVER SENT AN ANGEL UPON EARTH IN HUMAN FORM 
IT WAS MY 
MOTHER 



CONTENTS 


CHAPTEB TAGS 

Introduction xi 

Preface xxi 

I. The Founders of Modern Spiritualism . . 1 

II. The Davenport Brothers 17 

III. Daniel Dunglas Home 38 

IV. Palladino 50 

V. Ann O’Delia Diss Debar 66 

VI. Dr. Slade and His Spirit Slates .... 79 

VII. Slate Writing and Other Methods . . . 101 

VIII. Spirit Photography 117 

IX. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 138 

X. Why Ectoplasm? 166 

XI. By-products of Spiritualism 180 

XII. Investigations — Wise and Otherwise . . . 191 

XIII. How Mediums Obtain Information .... 217 

XIV. What You Must Believe to Be a Spiritualist . 229 

XV. Magicians as Detectors of Fraud .... 244 

XVI. Conclusion 266 

Appendix 271 



ILLUSTRATIONS 


Sm Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini Photographed at the 


Auto Club, London, England Frontispiece 

John D. Fox and His Wife Facing p. 10 

The Fox Home at Hydesville “ 10 

Leah Fox Fish “ 14 

Katie Fox Jencken “ 14 

Margaret Fox Kane “ 14 

Elisha Kent Kane, M.D M 14 


Ira Erastus Davenport and Houdini, Taken on July 5, 1911. 

The last photograph of the old showman . . . Facing p. 26 

Facsimile of Portions of a Letter Written to Houdini by 

Ira E. Davenport Facing p . 28 

Daniel Dunglas Home “ 44 

Diagram Showing Arrangement of Rooms, Windows, Etc., 

Where Hume’s Reputed Feat of Floating Took Place Page 47 

Eusapia Palladino and Her Seance Table . . . Facing />. 60 

Ann O’Delia Diss Debar “ 76 

Henry Slade “ 88 

“Locked Slate” Used by Dr. Henry Slade in His Writing Tests 

at Philadelphia Facing p . 96 

Sketch Showing Slade’s Seat at the Table, Different Posi- 
tions of Slates, Location of Sponge, and Method of 
Moving Book Page 98 

Writing on “Honest Slates” by Means of Wedge and Wire 

Page 104 



ILLUSTRATIONS 


Houdini, Mrs. Houdini, and Mr. Teale, Demonstrating a 
Method of Switching Slates over a Sitter’s Head . . 

Facing p. 106 

Rapping Mechanism in Heel of Medium’s Shoe . . . Page 111 
Tube and Piston Arrangement for Making Raps . . “ 111 

So-called “Spirit Extra” on Photograph of Harry Price 

Made by William Hope of the Crewe Circle . Facing p . 130 

Houdini and Alexander Martin 4< 134 

Photograph of Houdini Made by Alexander Martin, at Den- 
ver, Colorado, on May 10, 1923, Showing So-called 
“Spirit Extras” Facing p . 136 

Mme. Bisson, Mrs. Feilding (Tomchick), and Mlle. Eva . . 

Facing />. 170 

Kellar and Houdini “ 224 



INTRODUCTION 


From my early career as a mystical entertainer I have 
been interested in Spiritualism as belonging to the cate- 
gory of mysticism, and as a side line to my own phase 
of mystery shows I have associated myself with mediums, 
joining the rank and file and held seances as an inde- 
pendent medium to fathom the truth of it all. At the 
time I appreciated the fact that I surprised my clients, 
hut while aware of the fact that I was deceiving them I 
did not see or understand the seriousness of trifling with 
such sacred sentimentality and the baneful result which 
inevitably followed. To me it was a lark. I was a 
mystifier and as such my ambition was being gratified 
and my love for a mild sensation satisfied. After delving 
deep I realized the seriousness of it all. As I advanced 
to riper years of experience I was brought to a realization 
of the seriousness of trifling with the hallowed reverence 
which the average human being bestows on the departed, 
and when I personally became afflicted with similar grief 
I was chagrined that I should ever have been guilty of 
such frivolity and for the first time realized that it 
bordered on crime. 

As a consequence my own mental attitude became 
considerably more plastic. I too would have parted 
gladly with a large share of my earthly possessions for 
the solace of one word from my loved departed — just 
one word that I was sure had been genuinely bestowed 
by them — and so I was brought to a full consciousness 
of the sacredness of the thought, and became deeply 
interested to discover if there was a possible reality to 

si 



INTRODUCTION 


the return, by Spirit, of one who had passed over the 
border and ever since have devoted to this effort my heart 
and soul and what brain power I possess. In this frame 
of mind I began a new line of psychical research in all 
seriousness and from that time to the present I have never 
entered a seance room except with an open mind devoutly 
anxious to learn if intercommunication is within the range 
of possibilities and with a willingness to accept any 
demonstration which proves a revelation of truth. 

It is this question as to the truth or falsity of inter- 
communication between the dead and the living, more 
than anything else, that has claimed my attention and 
to which I have devoted years of research and conscien- 
tious study. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle says in one of his 
lectures : 

“When one has a knock at the door, one does not 
pause, but goes further to see what causes it and investi- 
gates, and sooner or later one discovers that a message 
is being delivered, . . 

So I have gone to investigate the knocks, but as a 
result of my efforts I must confess that I am farther than 
ever from belief in the genuineness of Spirit manifesta- 
tions and after twenty-five years of ardent research and 
endeavor I declare that nothing has been revealed to 
convince me that intercommunication has been estab- 
lished between the Spirits of the departed and those still 
in the flesh. 

I have made compacts with fourteen different persons 
that whichever of us died first would communicate with 
the other if it were possible, but I have never received 
a word. The first of these compacts was made more than 
twenty-five years ago and I am certain that if any one 
of the persons could have reached me he would have 
done so. One compact was made with my private secre- 

xU 



INTRODUCTION 


tary, the late John W. Sargent, a man of mature years. 
We were very much attached to each other. The day 
before he underwent an operation he said to me: 

“Houdini, this may he the end. If it is, I am coming 
hack to you no matter what happens on the other side 
provided there is any way I can reach you. And if I 
can come, you will know it is I because I am going to 
will it so strong that you cannot be mistaken.” 

He died the next day. That was more than three years 
ago and there has been no sign. I have waited and watched 
believing that if any man ever could have sent back word 
he would have been the man. And I know that our minds 
were so close to each other that I would have received 
the signal that my friend wanted to call me. No one 
could accuse me of being unwilling to receive such a 
sign because it would have been the greatest enlighten- 
ment I could possibly have had in this world. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a sincere and confirmed 
believer in Spirit phenomena whose acquaintance I 
esteem, advises me that I do not secure convincing results 
because I am a skeptic and I therefore want to make it 
clear that I am not a scoffer. I firmly believe in a 
Supreme Being and that there is a Hereafter. Therefore 
since their departure from this earth it has been my 
practice, as a final duty, to visit the sacred resting places 
of my dearly beloved parents, and ask their protection 
and silent blessings through the Omnipotent Almighty. 
The very first place I visit when I return from a trip is 
this same hallowed spot. Both promised me faithfully 
innumerable times in this life that if they could aid and 
protect me from their graves or from the Great Beyond, 
they would do so. My mind has always been open and 
receptive and ready to believe. In attending seances I 
have always made a pledge of honor with myself to banish 


INTRODUCTION 


all profane thoughts from my mind to the utmost of my 
ability. I further pledge myself to concentrate. I have 
persuaded my whole soul, brain and thought to a point 
where the medium has my attention to such an extent 
that at the finish I feel as much exhausted as the medium 
who shows to those present the effects of great strain 
irrespective of its cause. Thus it must be seen that I 
am not a skeptic. However, it has been my life work 
to invent and publicly present problems, the secrets of 
which not even the members of the magical profession 
have been able to discover, and the effects of which have 
proved as inexplicable to the scientists as any marvel 
of the mediums, and I claim that in so far as the revela- 
tion of trickery is concerned my years of investigation 
have been more productive than the same period of 
similar work by any scientist; that my record as a 
“mystifier of mystifiers” qualifies me to look below the 
surface of any mystery problem presented to me and that 
with my eyes trained by thirty years’ experience in the 
realms of mystery and occultism it is not strange that I 
view these so-called phenomena from a different angle 
than the ordinary layman or even the expert investigator. 

A memorable incident in my life and one that shows 
how little the world at large understands the methods 
by which my mysteries are produced and also shows how 
easy it is for even a great intellect, faced with a mystery 
it cannot fathom, to conclude that there is something 
supernatural involved, has to do with Madame Sarah 
Bernhardt. 

During one of my various engagements in Paris she 
had witnessed my performances and was anxious to see 
one of my outdoor exploits, so, when we were both 
playing at the same time in Boston, out of good cama- 
raderie I gave a special performance at my hotel adding 

jdv 



INTRODUCTION 


a few extra experiments for her benefit. As we were 
seated in the motor car on the way to my demonstration 
she placed her arm gently around my shoulder, and in 
that wonderful speaking voice with which she was gifted 
and which has thrilled thousands of auditors, but now 
stilled forever, she said to me: 

“Houdini, you do such marvellous things. Couldn’t 
you — could you bring back my leg for me?” 

I looked at her, startled, and failing to see any mis- 
chievous sparkle in her eye replied: 

“Good heavens, Madame, certainly not; you cannot be 
serious. You know my powers are limited and you are 
actually asking me to do the impossible.” 

“Yes,” she said as she leaned closer to me, “but you 
do the impossible.” 

We looked at each other; she, the travel -worn, experi- 
enced woman of the world; I, the humble mystifier, 
nonplussed and thunderstruck at the extraordinary, unin- 
tentional compliment she was paying me. Then I asked: 
“Are you jesting?” 

“ Mais noii , Houdini, j’ai jamais ete plus serieux dans 
ma vie,”* she answered as she slowly shook her head. 
“Madame, you exaggerate my ability,” I told her. 

Each of the marvels of modern scientific achievement 
such as the telephone, radio, flying machine, radium, etc., 
were at one time classed as impossible and would have 
been looked upon as supernatural, if not Spiritual mani- 
festations. Similar mysteries, but more frail in principle 
and constructive detail, were the instruments used by the 
priestcraft of ancient religious cults for the purpose of 
holding the mass of unintelligent beings in servitude. 

It is not unusual for the eye or ear to play tricks with 
one but when such illusions and delusions are taken for 

# “Oh, no, Houdini, I never was more serious in my life.” 

xv 



INTRODUCTION 


the Spirit forms of the departed and voices of the dead 
instead of being recognized as some subjective phenomena 
brought about by a physical cause the situation takes on 
a grave aspect. It is this transfer of an inner reaction 
to an external object which constitutes practically all that 
is necessary to be placed in the category of “psychics,” 
who represent the priests and ministers of Spiritualism. 

Distressed relatives catch at the least word which may 
remotely indicate that the Spirit which they seek is in 
communication with them. One little sign even, which 
appeals to their waiting imagination, shatters all ordinary 
caution and they are converted. Then they begin to 
accept all kinds of natural events as results of Spirit 
intervention. This state of mind is productive of many 
misfortunes, including suicides by those who think they 
are going to happiness with loved ones beyond the pale. 
When in Europe in 1919 finishing an engagement inter- 
rupted by the World War I was impressed by the eager- 
ness of grief-stricken parents for the solace of a word 
from the boy who had passed on and my desire for the 
truth was renewed with fresh vigor. I am informed that 
so great has the “medium” craze become in Berlin that 
the grief-stricken residents have spent great sums of 
money in the hope of discovering mediums who will 
“guarantee them a glimpse behind the veil.” It is with 
the deepest interest and concern that I have watched this 
great wave of Spiritualism sweep the world in recent 
months and realized that it has taken such a hold on 
persons of a neurotic temperament, especially those 
suffering from bereavement, that it has become a menace 
to health and sanity. 

Professor George M. Robertson, eminent psychopa- 
thologist, and Physician-Superintendent of the Royal Edin- 
burgh Mental Hospital, made the danger of insanity 



INTRODUCTION 


resulting from strong belief in Spiritualism by neurotics 
the subject of a part of his annual report in 1920. He 
says: 

“Those who had sustained bereavements during the 
war and bore them with equanimity in the days of crowded 
incidents and amidst the pressure of war activities, such 
as Red Cross and other work, find it much harder to bear 
up now, although time has elapsed. Some have broken 
down since the war came to an end. Many, as a solace 
to their feelings, have taken an interest in Spiritualism. 
Since Dr. Charles Mercier quoted in (he preface of his 
book ‘Spiritualism and Sir Oliver Lodge’ my warning on 
the danger of neurotic persons engaging in practical 
inquiries of a Spiritualistic nature, I have received many 
requests to say more on the subject. I have little to add 
save to reaffirm the statement then made. 

“I do not consider either Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or 
Sir Oliver Lodge to be safe judges, whose opinion should 
be accepted on this difficult and important subject, in 
view of their bereavement and unconscious desires. If 
the wish be father to the thought, it is mother to the 
hallucination of the senses. 

“The tricks the brain can play without calling in 
Spiritualistic aids are simply astounding, and only those 
who have made a study of morbid as well as normal 
psychology, realize the full truth of this.” 

I have read with keen curiosity the articles by leading 
scientists on the subject of psychic phenomena, particu- 
larly those by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver 
Lodge, in which they have discussed their respective 
conversions to a belief in communication with the dead. 
There is no doubt in my mind that some of these scientists 
are sincere in their belief but unfortunately it is through 
this very sincerity that thousands become converts. The 

xvU 



INTRODUCTION 


fact that they are scientists does not endow them with an 
especial gift for detecting the particular sort of fraud 
used by mediums, nor does it bar them from being 
deceived, especially when they are fortified in their belief 
by grief, for the various books and records of the subject 
are replete with deceptions practised on noted scientists 
who have essayed to investigate prominent mediums. It 
is perfectly rational to suppose that I may be deceived 
once or twice by a new illusion, but if my mind, which 
has been so keenly trained for years to invent mysterious 
effects, can be deceived, how much more susceptible 
must the ordinary observer be. 

During my last trip abroad, in 1919, I attended over 
one hundred seances with the sole purpose of honest 
investigation; these seances were presided over by well- 
known mediums in France and England. In addition to 
attending these seances I spent a great deal of time con- 
ferring with persons prominently identified with Spirit- 
ualism. In the course of my intense investigations I have 
met most of the famous mediums of our time. I have 
submitted to conditions imposed by them and religiously 
awaited results, but I still question any so-called proof 
of the existence of Spirits who are interested in any 
way, physically or mentally, in the welfare of mortal 
men. It is not within the province of this book, which 
is the result of my years of investigation, to give all 
the historical detail concerning every medium mentioned, 
though enough are furnished in each instance to establish 
my claims, each of which is based on a thorough study 
of the records as are also my statements many of which 
are supported by documentary evidence in my possession. 

I have spent a goodly part of my life in study and 
research. During the last thirty years I have read every 
single piece of literature on the subject of Spiritualism 



INTRODUCTION 


that I could. I have accumulated one of the largest 
libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, 
magic, witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some 
of the material going back as far as 1489, and I doubt 
if any one in the world has so complete a library on 
modern Spiritualism, but nothing I ever read concern- 
ing the so-called Spiritualistic phenomena has impressed 
me as being genuine. It is true that some of the things 
I read seemed mystifying but I question if they would 
be were they to be reproduced under different circum- 
stances, under test conditions , and before expert mystifiers 
and open minded committees. Mine has not been an 
investigation of a few days or weeks or months but 
one that has extended over thirty years and in that 
thirty years I have not found one incident that savoured 
of the genuine. If there had been any real unalloyed 
demonstration to work on, one that did not reek of fraud, 
one that could not be reproduced by earthly powers, then 
there would be something for a foundation, but up to the 
present time everything that I have investigated has been 
the result of deluded brains or those which were too 
actively and intensely willing to believe. 

Houdini. 


six 



PREFACE 


Gladly would I embrace Spiritualism if it could prove 
its claims, but I am not willing to be deluded by the 
fraudulent impositions of so-called psychics, or accept 
as sacred reality any of the evidence that has been placed 
before me thus far. 

The ancients’ childish belief in demonology and witch- 
craft; the superstitions of the civilized and uncivilized, 
and those marvellous mysteries of past ages are all 
laughed at by the full grown sense of the present genera- 
tion; yet we are asked, in all seriousness, by a few 
scientists and scholars, to accept as absolute truth such 
testimony as is built up by their pet mediums, which, so 
far, has been proven to be nothing beyond a more or less 
elaborate construction of fiction resting on the slenderest 
of foundations, or rather, absolutely no foundation. 

Not only educated men and women with emotional 
longings for some assurance of the continued existence 
of departed loved ones, but people of all phases and 
conditions of life, have completely surrendered them- 
selves to belief in the most monstrous fiction, vouched 
for by only a single witness of the so-called phenomenon, 
and that too when the medium, through whom the 
phenomenon was supposed to have presented itself, had 
been caught cheating time and again. 

I believe in a Hereafter and no greater blessing could 
be bestowed upon me than the opportunity, once again, 
to speak to my sainted Mother who awaits me with open 
arms to press me to her heart in welcome, just as she 
did when I entered this mundane sphere. 


Spring, 1924. 


H. 



HOUDINI 

A MAGICIAN 
AMONG THE SPIRITS 



A MAGICIAN 
AMONG THE SPIRITS 


CHAPTER I 

THE FOUNDERS OF 
MODERN SPIRITUALISM 

The story of modern spirit manifestations, so called, 
dates from 1848 and the “solitary farmhouse” of John 
D. Fox and his wife in the village of Hydesville, in New 
York State, and centres around their two little girls, Mar- 
garet, eight, and Kate, younger by a year and a half. 
Successfully exploited while still children; credited with 
occult power; becoming world-famous as “The Fox Sis- 
ters,” — their record is, without exception, one of the most 
interesting in the history of spiritualism. 

John Fox and his wife appear to have been of the “good, 
honest,” hut not mentally keen type of farmer folk. Of 
the two, the wife was the more “simple minded,” and 
when the “nervous, superstitious woman” began to hear 
unusual noises which she could not account for, and which 
seemed in some peculiar manner connected with her chil- 
dren, she concluded at once that the sounds were “un- 
natural” and began to brood over the matter. Her fears 
increased with the persistent recurrence of the mysterious 
sounds, and before long she took some of the neighbors 
into her confidence. They were as puzzled as the mother, 
the Fox home became an object of suspicion and the neigh- 
borhood set itself the task of solving the mystery. 

l 



2 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


With the increase of interest came a proportionate in- 
crease in the noises, which commenced to be known as 
“rappings,” and which, in spite of the positive denials by 
the children of any knowledge of how they were pro* 
duced, regularly answered by an uncanny code ques- 
tions asked the two girls. The possibility of duplicity in 
such children never occurred to any one in Hydesville, 
with the result that the timid hint of a “disembodied spirit” 
soon became a theory. Some one asked the girls if a mur- 
der had ever been committed in the house. The ominous 
sounds of the code answered in the affirmative and at once 
to the eager investigators, the theory became a proven fact 
and there flashed up in their minds the vision of a person- 
ality in the Spirit World endeavoring by crude means, 
which somewhat resembled telegraphy, to give to human 
beings the benefit of its vaster knowledge, the whole affair 
in some obscure manner being connected with two little 

girls- 

At this critical moment a married daughter of John D. 
Fox and his wife came home to Hydesville for a visit. 
Twenty-three years older than little Margaret, of a very 
different type than either father or mother, she seems to 
have grasped instantly the possibilities in the “occult” 
powers of her little sisters and to have taken complete 
command of the Fox family’s affairs at once. Her first 
move was to organize a “Society of Spiritualists” and 
encourage crowds to come to the house to see the children. 
Hydesville became famous almost overnight. News of 
the peculiar “rappings” spread with lightning-like rapidity 
and soon became an absorbing topic of conversation, not 
only in the United States, but in England, France, Italy, 
and Germany as well. Women like Harriet Martineau and 
Elizabeth Barrett Browning were said to have given their 
whole thought to it, and men of the strongest intellect 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 3 

and will to be “caught in the meshes it had woven in con- 
temporaneous thought.” 

Hydesville became too small a field for the operations 
of Mrs. Fish, the older sister, very quickly, and soon she 
appears in Rochester with the girls, publicly exhibiting 
their feats to great crowds for money, realizing from one 
hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars a night in profits, 
which she pocketed. From Rochester she took them to 
New York City, and later the girls made a tour of the 
cities of the United States, attracting the “most prominent 
theologians, physicians, and professional men of all kinds, 
as well as great crowds everywhere.” There is no record 
that the girls were ever under the management of Mrs. 
Fish after they left New York City although she menaced 
them continually and Margaret feared her as long as she 
lived. 

The grand tour over, Kate, sponsored by Horace Greeley, 
went to school and Margaret, just developing into an at- 
tractive young woman, and destined to become the more 
famous of the two mediums, began a series of seances in 
rooms occupied by herself and mother at the Union Hotel 
in Philadelphia. There romance entered her life on a day 
in 1853 in the person of Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, the noted 
Arctic explorer. 

His had been a remarkable career. Belonging to one 
of the most aristocratic families in Philadelphia; the son 
of a judge; handsome; still under thirty -four; graduated 
more than ten years previously from the University of 
Pennsylvania, he had gone out to China with Commodore 
Parker as “surgeon of the embassy,” later obtained a leave 
of absence and travelled through Greece on foot, went up 
the Nile, toured India, Ceylon, and the South Sea Islands, 
and even “dared the Himalayas.” The Mexican War had 
furnished him an opportunity to “win spurs for gallantry.” 



4 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


and, this over, he had joined a relief expedition which 
went in search of Sir John Franklin in 1850.* 

This much travelled, much experienced man of the world 
was instantly and irresistibly attracted to the young 
medium. An acquaintance was formed and it was not 
long before Doctor Kane determined that, regardless of all 
obstacles, she should be his wife. In spite of the efforts 
of his family, he soon made arrangements to educate 
Margaret, and she was placed with a tutor in a quiet suburb 
of Philadelphia, where an aunt of the doctor’s could have 
an oversight of her and where in addition to her other 
studies she was to be made proficient in French, German, 
and Italian, as well as vocal and instrumental music. Her 
vacations were spent with a sister of Senator Cockrell. 
For some three or four years she was thus sheltered from 
the world, while the doctor did all in his power to eradi- 
cate from her mind everything connected with spiritualism 
and “rappings.” Then came the turn of the tide. 

The doctor became broken in health as a result of ex- 
posure in the Arctic and decided to go abroad. There 
had been neither civil or religious ceremony to mark his 
marriage to Margaret, but just before he sailed, in the 
presence of her mother and other witnesses, he declared 
that they were husband and wife. His health grew worse 
in London and he left there for the West Indies, where 
Margaret and her mother were to join him, but their 
preparations for the journey were cut short by the an- 
nouncement in the papers of his death in Havana on 

* Sir John Franklin was a celebrated Arctic explorer. In 1845 he was 
appointed to the command of an expedition sent out by the British Admiralty 
in search of the northwest passage. The expedition sailed from Greenhithe, 
May 18, 1845, and was last spoken off the entrance of Lancaster Sound, July 
26, 1845. Thirty-nine relief expeditions, public and private, were sent out from 
England and America in search of the missing explorer between 1847 and 1857. 
McClintock found traces of the missing expedition in 1859, which confirmed 
previous rumors of its total destruction. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


5 


the 16th of February, 1857. Margaret was prostrated 
by the blow. A long sickness followed and when she 
finally recovered it was to face the world, not only friend- 
less and alone, but penniless as well, for, owing to a 
compromise, she did not share in the doctor’s estate. Dis- 
appointed, disheartened, and bitter she went back to her 
Spiritualism and “rappings.” For thirty years she wan- 
dered from place to place holding seances. For thirty 
years she suffered the tortures of remorse and ill health. 
She believed she was being driven “into hell.” She 
loathed the thing she was, and tried at times to drown her 
troubles in wine. For thirty years she lived in constant 
fear of her older sister. Then Margaret Kane found a 
temporary solace in the Catholic Church. But there were 
still more months of struggle before she finally found 
courage to tell the story of the world-famous “rappings” 
in a signed confession given to the press in October, 1888.* 

“I do this,” she said, “because I consider it my duty, 
a sacred thing, a holy mission, to expose it (Spirit- 
ualism). I want to see the day when it is entirely done 
away with. After I expose it I hope Spiritualism will 
be given a death blow. I was the first in the field and 
I have a right to expose it.f 

“My sister Katie and I were very young children when 
this horrible deception began. I was only eight, just a 
year and a half older than she. We were very mischievous 
children and sought merely to terrify our dear mother, 
who was a very good woman and very easily frightened. 

“When we went to bed at night we used to tie an apple 
to a string and move the string up and down, causing the 
apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple 
on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would 

• New York World, October 21, 1888. 

t See Appendix A* 



6 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


rebound. Mother listened to this for a time. She would 
not understand it and did not suspect us as being capable 
of a trick because we were so young. 

“At last she could stand it no longer and she called 
the neighbors in and told them about it. It was this 
that set us to discover a means of making the raps more 
effectually. I think, when I reflect about it, that it was 
a most wonderful discovery, a very wonderful thing that 
children should make such a discovery, and all through 
a desire to do mischief only.* 

“Our oldest sister was twenty-three years of age when 
I was born. She was in Rochester when these tricks 
first began but came to Hydesville, the little village in 
central New York where we were born and lived. 

“All the neighbors around, as I have said, were called 
in to witness these manifestations. There were so many 
people coming to the house that we were not able to 
make use of the apple trick except when we were in bed 
and the room was dark. Even then we could hardly 
do it, so the only way was to rap on the bedstead. 

“And that is the way we began. First, as a mere 
trick to frighten mother, and then, when so many people 
came to see us children, we were ourselves frightened, 
and for self-preservation forced to keep it up. No one 
suspected us of any trick because we were such young 
children. We were led on by my sister purposely and 
by mother unintentionally. We often heard her say: 

“ ‘Is this a disembodied spirit that has taken possession 
of my dear children?’ 

“That encouraged our fun and we went on. All the 
neighbors thought there was something and they wanted 
to find out what it was. They were convinced that some 
one had been murdered in the house. They asked the 

* Could this possibly have been “in answer to prayer” as now claimed ? 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


7 


spirits through us about it and we would rap one for the 
spirit answer ‘yes,’ not three as we did afterwards. The 
murder they concluded must have been committed in 
the house. They went over the whole surrounding coun- 
try trying to get the names of people who had formerly 
lived in the house. Finally they found a man by the 
name of Bell, and they said that this poor innocent man 
had committed a murder in the house and that the noises 
came from the spirit of the murdered person. Poor Bell 
was shunned and looked upon by the whole community 
as a murderer.* 

“Mrs. Underhill, my eldest sister, took Katie and me to 
Rochester. There it was that we discovered a new way 
to make the raps. My sister Katie was the first to observe 
that by swishing her fingers she could produce certain 
noises with her knuckles and joints, and that the same 
effect could be made with the toes. Finding that we 
could make raps with our feet — first with one foot and 
then with both — we practiced until we could do this easily 
when the room was dark. 

“Like most perplexing things when made clear, it is 
astonishing how easily it is done. The rappings are 
simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of 
the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the 
foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is 
not commonly known. Such perfect control is only 
possible when a child is taken at an early age and care- 
fully and continually taught to practice the muscles, 

* Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his book, “Our American Adventures,” states : 

“The original house was removed by pious hands and reconstructed, as I 
understand it, at Lily Dale. It is not generally known that when it was pulled 
down or it may have been before, the bones of the murdered peddler and his 
tin box were discovered buried in the cellar, as was stated in the original rap- 
pings. The rappings were in 1848, the discovery in 1903. What have our 
opponents to say to this?” 

According to Margaret Fox’s confession, Doyle’s statements are misleading 
and contrary to the facts. 


8 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


which grow stiff in later years. A child at twelve is 
almost too old. With control of the muscles of the foot, 
the toes may be brought down to the floor without any 
movement that is perceptible to the eye. The whole 
foot, in fact, can be made to give rappings by the use 
only of the muscles below the knee. This, then, is the 
simple explanation of the whole method of the knocks 
and raps. 

“In Rochester Mrs. Underhill gave exhibitions. We 
had crowds coming to see us and she made as much as 
a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars a night. She 
pocketed this. Parties came in from all parts to see us. 
Many as soon as they heard a little rap were convinced. 
To all questions we answered by raps. We knew when to 
rap ‘yes’ or ‘no’ according to certain signs which Mrs. 
Underhill gave us during the seance. 

“A great many people when they hear the rapping 
imagine at once that the spirits are touching them. It is 
a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people 
came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty- 
second Street and I did some rappings for them. I made 
the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out : 
“ ‘I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder.’ 

Of course that was pure imagination. 

“Katie and I were led around like lambs. We went 
to New York from Rochester and then all over the United 
States. We drew immense crowds. I remember particu- 
larly Cincinnati. We stopped at the Burnett House. The 
rooms were jammed from morning till night and we were 
called upon by those old wretches to show our rappings 
when we should have been out at play in the fresh air. 

“Nobody has ever suspected anything from the start 
in 1848 until the present day as to any trickery in our 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


9 


methods. There has never been a detection.* But as the 
world grew wise and science began to investigate we began 
to adapt our experiments to our audiences. Our seances 
were held in a room. There was a centre-table in the 
middle and we all stood around it. 

“As far as Spirits were concerned neither my sister nor 
I thought about it. I know that there is no such thing 
as the departed returning to this life. Many people have 
said to me that such a thing was possible and seemed to 
believe so firmly in it that I tried to see, and I have tried 
in every form and know that it cannot be done. 

“After I married, Dr. Kane would not let me refer to 
my old life — he wanted me to forget it. But when I 
was poor, after his death, I was driven to it again, and 
I wish to say clearly that I owe all my misfortune to that 
woman, my sister. I have asked her time and again: 

“ ‘Now that you are rich why don’t you save your soul?* 

“But at my words she would fly into a passion. She 
wanted to establish a new religion and she told me that 
she received messages from spirits. She knew that 
we were tricking people but she tried to make us believe 
spirits existed. She told us that before we were born 
spirits came into her room and told her that we were 
destined for great things. 

“Yes, I am going to expose Spiritualism from its very 
foundation. I have had the idea in my head for many a 
year but I have never come to a determination before. 
I have thought of it day and night. I loathe the thing I 

* Tl>ere were three investigations by competent investigators. One in Buffalo 
by medical doctors, one in Philadelphia by the Seybert Commission of the 
University of Pennsylvania, and one in Boston by a committee of professors 
from Harvard University. Any one of the three would have resulted dis- 
astrously for the medium had the conditions and requirements demanded by 
the investigators been complied with. A suspicion was well founded in the 
minds of the investigators as to the actual solution of the problem, but they 
were not permitted to proceed to a finish, the mediums hedging each time when a 
crucial test was proposed. 


10 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


have been. I used to say to those who wanted me to give 
a seance: 

“ ‘You are driving me into Hell.’ 

“Then the next day I would drown my remorse in 
wine. I was too honest to remain a ‘medium.’ That’s 
why I gave up my exhibitions. I have seen so much 
miserable deception! Every morning of my life I have 
it before me. When I wake up I brood over it. That is 
why I am willing to state that Spiritualism is a fraud of 
the worst description. I have had a life of sorrow, I 
have been poor and ill, but I consider it my duty, a sacred 
thing, a holy mission to expose it. I want to see the 
day when it is entirely done away with. After my sister 
Katie and I expose it I hope Spiritualism will be given 
a death blow. 

“I do not want it understood that the Catholic Church 
has advised me to make these public exposures and con- 
fession. It is my own idea. My own mission. I would 
have done it long ago if I could have had the necessary 
money and courage to do it. I could not find anyone to 
help me — I was too timid to ask. 

“I am now very poor. I intend, however, to expose 
Spiritualism because I think it is my sacred duty. If I 
cannot do it who can? I who have been the beginning 
of it? At least I hope to reduce the ranks of the eight 
million Spiritualists in the country. I go into it as into 
a holy war. I am waiting anxiously and fearlessly for 
the moment when I can show the world, by personal 
demonstration, that all Spiritualism is a fraud and a 
deception. It is a branch of legerdemain, but it has to 
be closely studied to gain perfection. None but a child 
at an early age, would have ever attained the proficiency 
and wrought such widespread evil as I have. 




1 

jg*jafl.aS 

aefPkl 






A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


11 


“I trust that this statement, coming solemnly from me, 
the first and the most successful in this deception, will 
break the rapid growth of Spiritualism and prove that 
it is all a fraud, hypocrisy and delusion. 

(Signed) “Margaret Fox Kane.” * 

Mrs. Kane’s “confession” was published in the Sunday 
edition of the New York World on October 21, 1888. 
Arrangements had been made for her to give a public 
demonstration and exposition of the so-called “marvel- 
lous” Spiritualistic “phenomena” that same evening at 
the Academy of Music in New York. Meanwhile, in order 
to foil the “attempts” of certain mediums to “kidnap her” 
she was being closely guarded at her hotel where during 
the day she was interviewed by newspaper men. Expect- 
ing when she left her room to answer questions only she 
nevertheless readily consented to give some evidence of 
“how the trick was done” in order to do all in her power 
to “complete the exposure and demonstrate the utter 
absurdity of the claim made by mediums that she was 
possessed of spiritual power in spite of her denials.” The 

* I have been warned while writing this book to be careful regarding my 
statement of the confession of Margaret Fox. I am also fully aware of the 
fact that Dr. Funk writes in his book, “The Widow’s Mite”: 

“Margaret Fox, not long before her death, confessed that she and her sister 
had duped the public. This unfortunate woman had sunk so low that for five 
dollars she would have denied her own mother and sworn to anything. At that 
time her affidavit for or against anything should not be given the slightest 
weight.” 

Mr. W. S. Davis, himself a practicing medium, who knew Margaret Fox 
Kane personally, wrote me: 

“One would think that Margaret Fox got drunk, and in that condition, was 
induced to confess that she was a fraud, but when she became sober she re- 
nounced her confession. That is what we would think to hear some Spiritual- 
ists talk. She mas sober when she made her confession; she was sober when she 
appeared in the theatre and gave her expos4 . In fact she was usually sober „ 
She drank considerably during the later years of her life, and often drank too 
much, but usually she was sober . One of her reasons for drinking was that her 
hypocrisy had become more and more distasteful to her. Living a constant lie 
got on her nerves, and, when the later years came, she didn’t have the same 
degree of vital force that she had in her younger days to battle off the dictates 
of her conscience.” 


12 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


World reporter told of this private demonstration as 
follows : 

“ ‘Now,’ said Mrs. Kane, ‘I will stand up before these 
folding-doors and you may stand as near as you please 
and I will call up any “spirit” that you wish and answer 
any questions. One rap means “no” and three raps mean 
“yes.” Are you ready?’ 

“ ‘Is Napoleon Bonaparte present?’ the reporter asked, 
watching Mrs. Kane closely. Three raps (yes). 

“ ‘Does he know me? I mean did he ever meet and 
converse with me?’ Three raps. 

“ ‘That is strange, isn’t it,’ remarked Mrs. Kane, 
smiling, ‘in view of the fact that he must have died before 
you were born? Try again.’ 

“ ‘Is Abraham Lincoln present?’ Three raps. 

“ ‘Well you see the “spirits” are very obliging.’ 

“‘Will Harrison be elected?’ One loud rap (no). 

“ ‘Will President Cleveland get another term?’ Three 
raps.” 

That night some two thousand or more persons 
crowded the Academy of Music to witness the sensational 
expose. Most of them were sober, sensible people who 
“hailed with delight” the announcement that one of the 
famous Fox Sisters was to make a “clean breast of her 
share in Spiritualistic humbuggery.” But certain por- 
tions of the house were packed with pronounced Spiritual- 
ists, men and women who regarded all efforts to disillusion 
the public as so many personal insults, and when, pre- 
vious to Mrs. Kane’s appearance. Dr. C. M. Richmond, 
a prominent New York dentist who had spent twenty 
years and thousands of dollars investigating mediumistic 
tricks and wiles explained and demonstrated in full light 
the full methods of producing them, this Spiritualistic 
contingent became decidedly hostile and when Mrs. Kane 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


13 


finally stepped before the big audience to “confess orally 
what she had already confessed in print” she was laboring 
under too great a nervous strain to make any “intelligent 
utterance.” Those in charge of the affair realizing that 
an address was out of the question at once suggested 
that she immediately give a demonstration of the “rap- 
pings.” One of the New York papers the next morning 
published the following description of what happened.* 

“But if her tongue had lost its power her preternatural 
toe joint had not. A plain wooden stool, or table, resting 
upon four short legs and having the properties of a 
sounding board was placed in front of her. Removing 
her shoe, she placed her right foot upon this little table. 

“The entire house became breathlessly still and was 
rewarded by a number of little short, sharp raps — those 
mysterious sounds which have for forty years frightened 
and bewildered hundreds of thousands of people in this 
country and in Europe. 

“A committee consisting of three physicians taken 
from the audience then ascended the stage, and having 
made an examination of her foot during the progress of 
the rappings, unhesitatingly agreed that the sounds were 
made by the action of the first joint of her large toe. 

“The demonstration was perfect and complete and only 
the most hopelessly prejudiced and bigoted fanatics of 
Spiritualism could withstand the irresistible force of this 
commonplace explanation and exhibition of how spirit 
rappings are produced.” 

The exposure attracted widespread attention. Letters 
poured in from far and wide begging for confirmation, 
explanation or denial. The rest of the tribe of mediums 
naively hinted that if there had been fraud it was well 
to have it exposed but of course they were genuine. 

* New York World, October 22, 1888, 


14 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Many who had believed in Spiritualism wrote most pathet- 
ically. One of these writing from San Francisco says: 

“I have been a believer in the phenomena from its 
first inception through you and your sister, believing it 
to be true since that time. 

“I am now eighty-one years old and have but a short 
time of course, to remain in this world, and I feel a great 
anxiety to know through you if I have been deceived all 
this time in a matter of vital interest to us all.”* 

But perhaps of them all none better expresses what 
a blow the exposure was to thousands who had accepted 
as genuine the messages of the mysterious raps or de- 
scribes more vividly the effect of Spiritualism on many 
who are attracted to it than the following from a woman 
in Boston.f 

“Hundreds of thousands have believed through you and 
you alone. Hundreds of thousands eagerly ask you 
whether all the glorious light that they fancied you had 
given them, was but the false flicker of a common dip- 
candle of fraud. 

“If, as you say, you were forced to pursue this im- 
posture from childhood, I can forgive you, and I am sure 
God will; for he turns not back the truly repentant. 
I will not upbraid you. I am sure you have suffered as 
much as any penalty, human or divine, could cause you 
to suffer. The disclosures that you make take from 
me all that I have cherished most. There is nothing left 
for me now but to hope for the reality of that repose 
which death promises us. 

“It is perhaps better that the delusion should be at 
last swept away by one single word, and that word 
‘fraud.’ 

* From Ruben Briggs Davenport's “The Death Blow to Spiritualism." 

■flbid* 




MAHGAllET FOX KAN'E 


ELISHA KENT KANE, M.D. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


15 


“I know that the pursuit of this shadowy belief has 
wrought upon my brain and that I am no longer my old 
self. Money I have spent in thousands and thousands 
of dollars within a few short years to propitiate the 
‘mediumistic’ intelligence. It is true that never once 
have I received a message or the token of a word that did 
not leave a still unsatisfied longing in my heart, a feeling 
that it was not really my loved one after all who was 
speaking to me, or if it was my loved one that he was 
changed, that I hardly knew him and he hardly knew me. 
But that must have been the true intuition. It is better 
that the delusion is past, after all, for had I kept on in 
that way, I am sure I should have gone mad. The con- 
stant seeking, the frequent pretended response, its unsatis- 
fying meaning, the sense of distance and change between 
me and my loved one — oh! it has been horrible, horrible! 

“He who is dying of thirst and has the sweet cup ever 
snatched from his lips, just as the first drop touches them 
— he alone can know what in actual things is the simili- 
tude of this Spiritualistic torture. 

“God bless you, for I think that you now speak the 
truth. You have my forgiveness at least, and I believe 
that thousands of others will forgive you, for the atone- 
ment made in season wipes out much of the stain of the 
early sin.” 

Margaret Kane’s “confession” did not bring her the 
relief or friends she had hoped for, nor did it end her 
connection with Spiritualism for, glad as she would have 
been to give it up for good, her theatrical exposure was 
a financial failure and before long she was down and out 
again and once more she resorted to Spiritualism as a 
means of livelihood, giving seances and mediumistic 
meetings in a number of cities throughout the United 
States; hut her power of fooling the public was gone. 



16 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Having confessed to deceit once, no amount of persuasion 
on her part could convince the public that she was genu- 
ine, and in place of the thousands who had flocked to her 
in her younger days she never had more than a handful 
at her meetings. Her only friends were Spiritualists for 
strangely enough some of them still had faith in her, even 
when she was exposing Spiritualism, believing that she 
had fallen into the hands of evil spirits when she con- 
fessed that she was a fraud. 

Some time after the confession a “recantation” was 
circulated as coming from Mrs. Kane. I was never able 
to find any proof of its authenticity but my friend, 
Mr. W. S. Davis, who knew her well, informed me that 
she did make it — that she had to, or starve. It was not 
wholly voluntary though as Mr. Newton (then President 
of the First Society of Spiritualists) convinced her that 
it would be for her interest, and the interest of Spiritual- 
ism as well to do it. It made little difference, however, 
for the career of the unfortunate woman was nearly over. 
Frequently overcome by drink, forced on by privation 
and misery, death came to her, on March 8, 1895, less 
than seven years after she had stood in a crowded theatre 
and deliberately shown the method of making the raps 
which had brought her fame for four decades. 

The Fox Sisters used Spiritualism only as a means to 
“get while the getting was good.” Fortunately for the 
general public Spiritualism received a severe jolt in the 
confession of Margaret Fox Kane; there was an end to 
the Fox “swindle” and an untold amount of blood-money 
and grief saved to poor misguided souls so easily fooled 
by a simple physical trick. 



CHAPTER II 


THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS 

Such evidence of spirits as the simple “rappings” of 
the Fox Sisters soon gave place to more elaborate “mani- 
festations” and with the appearance of Ira Erastus Daven- 
port and his brother William Henry Harrison Davenport, 
working together, and known as the “Davenport Broth- 
ers,” these manifestations became complicated exhibitions 
involving the use of a cabinet, rope tricks, bells, and 
various horns and musical instruments. These brothers 
have always been, and are still, pointed to as being indis- 
putable proof of the reality and genuineness of medium- 
istic phenomena and public interest in Spiritualism was 
greatly stimulated by the tremendous sensation and dis- 
cussion caused by their demonstrations, yet an interesting 
train of circumstances put me in possession of facts more 
than sufficient to disprove their having, or even claiming, 
spiritualistic power. 

During many of the years in which I have been making 
a study of Spiritualism I supposed both of the Davenports 
dead and when my friend, Harry Kellar, in recounting 
some of his early experiences and hardships told me that 
he had been associated with them at one time and that 
Ira Davenport was still living I was surprised indeed. I at 
once communicated with him and there followed a pleas- 
ant acquaintance which lasted until his death and fur- 
nished me with much of historic value concerning the 
brothers which has never appeared in print. 

17 



18 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Heretofore all published accounts of the Davenport 
Brothers’ doings have been vague, speculative, lacking in 
actual knowledge, and misleading because the authors 
have been victims of delusion, but the information here 
given is based on a long correspondence with Ira Daven- 
port as well as an open hearted confession which he made 
to me shortly before his death, answering all my questions 
unreservedly and offering to assist me in every way he 
could as he wanted my statements * to be accurate in the 
book on Spiritualism which he knew I was writing. 

The Davenport Brothers were devotedly attached to 
each other and when in 1877 William died while they 
were in Australia, Ira the surviving brother was com- 
pletely upset. He made one feeble attempt to reinstate 
himself, but the “Spirit” was lacking and he returned, a 
discouraged man, to spend the remainder of his days in 
peace and quiet at home. While playing Australia early 
in 1910 for Harry Rickards I hunted up the grave of 
William Davenport and finding it sadly neglected I had 
it put in order, fresh flowers planted on it and the stone 
work repaired. f It was also on this trip that I met 

William M. Fay of “Davenport Brothers and Fay,” who 
told me many interesting things about the brothers and 
on my return to America one of the first things which 
I did was to go to Maysville, Chautauqua County, New 
York, to make Ira Davenport a visit. He met me at the 
station and took me to his home, an exceptionally happy 
and restful one presided over by the second Mrs. Daven- 
port, the first having died in childbirth. 

This second marriage was most romantic. During a 

* These statements are fully corroborated by letters on file In my library 
and I consider it not only a privilege, but a duty as well to truthfully present 
them here. 

f Ira, the surviving brother, was so touched by this little act that he taught 
me the famous Davenport rope-tie, the secret of which had been so well kept 
that not even his sons knew it 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


19 


seance which the Brothers were giving in Paris * Ira 
noticed a strikingly beautiful Belgian girl intently watch- 
ing him. After the performance he managed to meet 
her only to find that she could not speak a word of 
English. His French being limited to the usual two or 
three word table d’hote vocabulary of the average Ameri- 
can tourist he called his interpreter and through him 
asked the girl to become his wife. Bewildered by such 
an audacious proposal she blushed deeply, and cast down 
her eyes, then slowly raising them looked straight into 
Ira’s. There was a quick exchange of admiration and 
her woman’s intuition must have read -deeply and cor- 
rectly for she then and there consented to wed this 
American who had so unconventionally asked her to he 
his wife, a decision which she never had occasion to 
regret for they were a remarkably happy couple.f 

In the tranquil atmosphere of his porch we turned 
back the pages of time, Mr. Davenport re-living in retro- 
spect the trials, battles, praise and applause of long ago. 
Among other things we talked over the magical mystery 
performers of other days which led him to say very 
generously: 

* It was in Paris too that the other brother, William Henry Harrison Daven- 
port, met the great Adah Isaacs Menken, called the “Bengal Tiger,” and though 
not generally known she later became his wife. She was considered one of the 
“Ten Super- Women of the World.” She was bom within a few miles of New 
Orleans, La., in 1835. Upon the death of her father she embarked on her stage 
career and instantaneously won success. . . . She made her first appearance in 
New York City at the National Theatre in 1860. She was married a number of 
times. Her first marriage was to John C. Heenan, the prize fighter, better 
known as “Benicia Boy.” She was the first woman to do the Mazeppa in tights, 
playing the r61e both in America and Europe. While in London she became the 
literary and professional star of the hour and her hotel was the meeting place 
for such men as Charles Dickens, Swinburne, Alexander Dumas, Charles Reade, 
Watts Phillips, John Oxenford, The Duke of Hamilton and many others. She 
wrote a book of poems named “Infelicity,” which she dedicated to Charles 
Dickens. She had a penchant for being photographed with many of her ad- 
mirers and there is a rare photograph of her and Swinburne which he tried 
hard to suppress. Another famous one is of Dumas and the fair lady. 

fThey were married in London during March, 1866, 


20 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“Houdini, you know more about the old timers and 
my arguments, than I who lived through those trouble- 
some times.” 

He said that he recognized in me a past master of the 
craft and therefore spoke openly and did not hesitate to 
tell me the secrets of his feats. We discussed and analyzed 
the statements made in his letters to me and he frankly 
admitted that the work of the Davenport Brothers was 
accomplished by perfectly natural means and belonged to 
that class of feats commonly credited to “physical dex- 
terity.” Not once was there, even a hint that Spiritualism 
was of any concern to him, instead, discussing his work 
as straightforward showmanship. 

For me it was a memorable day and did not end with 
the setting of the sun, for we talked far into the night,* 
I with notebook in hand, he with a long piece of rope 
initiating me into the mysteries of the real “Davenport 
tie,” which converted thousands to a belief in Spiritualism 
and was the genesis f of the rope-tying stunts which gave 
such a stimulus to Spiritualistic discussion in connection 
with the brothers. Though many attempts were made to 
imitate it, to the best of my knowledge and belief, no one, 
not even the magical fraternity, was ever able to detect 
the method used in these famous rope tricks, the secret 
being guarded so carefully that Ira Davenport’s children 
did not know it. I have tested it and for uses such 
as they made of it I consider it one of the best rope ties 

* Long after Ira died his only daughter, Zellie, a well known actress, told 
me that while her father and I were so absorbed in discussing and experimenting 
with the rope trick she and her mother cautiously slipped behind the curtains 
and watched us through the bed-room window. 

f Ira told me that at first they used to work unbound in a comer of the 
room with a curtain to conceal their methods. At one of their seances they 
were asked if the Spirits would work if the Brothers allowed themselves to be 
tied. This led them to try out different rope methods, gradually developing the 
one used all over the world which Ira taught me, saying smilingly after he had 
done so: “Houdini, we started it, you finish it” 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


21 


in existence to-day, and it is only because I want it on 
record when I eventually pass to the Beyond that I am 
explaining to the public the modus operandi which was 
as follows. 

Built into either side of the cabinet used by the Daven- 
ports * was a bench through which two holes had been 
bored a little distance apart. The Brothers seated them- 
selves on these benches, and opposite one another, with 
their feet squarely on the floor in front of them. The 
end of a rope was passed around the legs of one of the 
brothers, close up by the knees, and tied. The rope was 
then wound around the legs several times, fastened at the 
ankles, the remaining portion carried straight across the 
cabinet to the other brother’s ankles, fastened, wound 
about his legs and tied at the knees. A shorter piece of 
rope was, then tied to each of their wrists with the knots 
lying next to the pulse. These ropes were threaded 
through the holes and the wrists drawn down to the 
benches, and the ends of the ropes fastened to the ankles. 

Their method of releasing themselves was compara- 
tively simple. While one extended his feet the other 
drew his in thus securing slack enough in the wrist ropes 
to permit working their hands out of the loops. f The 
second brother was released by reversing the action. 

* I had the honor of being instrumental in launching and directing Dean 
Kellar’s farewell at the Hippodrome in New York City and he selected me to 
be his last assistant. As a part of the performance he presented with some 
table tipping what he called the “Davenport Cabinet and Rope Mystery.” After 
g the performance he walked to the footlights and said: 

v “Ladies and gentlemen, I am finished giving performances to-night. As I 

I will have no further use for the cabinet and table I publicly present them to 

| my dear friend Houdini.” 

| In this cabinet, made in imitation of the one used by the Davenport Brothers, 

the benches are fitted into a groove making it possible for them to be slipped 
out in case of an extra severe tie-up, giving enough freedom to ring bells and 
do a number of other things without releasing the hands in the usual way. This 
is something of an improvement in mystery cabinets, 

| fThey rubbed vaseline into their hands and wrists to facilitate their move- 

% ments. The rope generally used was similar to the Silver Lake sash cord. 

I 




22 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


After the demonstrations were completed the brothers 
slipped their hands hack into the loops from which they 
had drawn them, placed their feet in the original positions 
and were ready to he examined. When the cabinet was 
opened the ropes appeared as taut as when put on by the 
committee. 

In order to disprove the frequently made claim that 
the Davenports left their benches to produce certain 
manifestations they asked investigating committees to 
place sheets of paper under their feet and mark around 
them with pencil or crayon thus making it seemingly 
impossible to move a foot without detection. But this 
in no way interfered or hindered in their performance 
for Ira told me they used to slide their feet, paper and 
all, and still keep the feet inside the marks, a method I 
can vouch for as being practical for I have tried it 
successfully.* 

With the advantage of working together it was simply 
impossible to secure both of the brothers in such a manner 
as to prevent their producing the expected results. If 
one was in trouble the other was always ready to come 
to the rescue for no matter how securely the committee tied 
them one was sure to he more loosely tied than the other 
and could get a hand free to reach over and help. 

“There was one chance in twenty million to hold us 
both at the same time,” Ira told me.f 

The Davenports’ strictest test was known as “The Tie 

* It was sometimes claimed that after their demonstrations were over the 
Davenports turned the papers and remarked them. This Ira said was a delib- 
erate lie as they never left their places throughout the entire performance. 

f At one of their seances a man tied the brothers so tightly that it was neces- 
sary for them to make a desperate struggle to effect a release. The next night 
the man tried a more difficult test, simply laying the ropes all over their bodies, 
but the Davenports worked so slowly, deftly, and with such inexhaustible patience 
that they saved their reputation. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


23 


Around the Neck.” This was also explained to me by 
Ira. A committee of three was called upon one of whom 
was a woman and for that reason the least suspected 
although in reality a confederate.* She and the Daven- 
ports were each in turn tied around the neck. The woman 
released herself by cutting the rope.f Hiding the pieces 
in her bloomers she performed her share of the mani- 
festations and retied herself with a duplicate piece of rope. 
No one was the wiser for so curiously allied are our five 
senses that the committee, bereft of its sight while such 
dark deeds were being done, seemed to have lost the use 
of its reasoning power as well. 

The first of the Davenports’ public performances were 
given in a large hall with rows of seats for the audience 
and a small raised platform which served as a stage. 
Someone, thinking to prevent the possibility of assistance 
by visitors, or confederates in the audience, asked if it 
were possible to have the manifestations occur in a closet. 
Receiving an affirmative answer one was built with open- 
ings large enough to “insert the spirit hands.” This 
closet was a decided advantage to the Brothers as it gave 
them an opportunity to work in total darkness which was 
an essential element of their performance. The closet 
was improved upon by placing a big box in the center of 
the stage and there gradually developed the cabinet J as 
we know it to-day. 

During that eventful visit Ira emphatically denied many 
of the absurd tales and popular beliefs concerning the 
Brothers, among them being the “flour test,” the “snuff 

* Nor did he hesitate to tell me that he sometimes used as many as ten con- 
federates at a seance for protection. 

f William Fay, in order to be prepared for an emergency, always carried a 
piece of rope in his mandolin, and boasted to his partners: 

“IT1 not chaw the ropes like you fellows. I’ll cut ” 

% The original cabinet of the Davenports, made of bird’s-eye maple, was 
pawned for thirty pounds in Cuba many years ago and is still there. 


24 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


test” * and such stories as the claim that when a hoy at 
home he gave a seance for his parents and during levita- 
tion f was raised up until his head touched the ceiling 
breaking both lath and plaster; that he was once levitated 
across the Niagara River, a distance of three thousand 
yards, and the one telling of his having effected an 
escape by Spiritual means from a prison in Oswego, N. Y., 
in 1859. 

The Davenports were constantly on their guard against 
surprise and exposure and Ira explained to me that when 
they were suspicious of a committeeman who wanted to 
go into the cabinet with them they would insist that he 
he tied too in order to prevent the audience from thinking 
he was a confederate. Fastened to a bench as well as to 
each of the Davenports he was absolutely helpless for 
while one was getting loose the other would strain the 
ropes on the committeeman’s feet holding him tight. 

He also told me that they were in the habit of reserving 
seats in the front row for their friends as a protection 
against anyone breaking through. At private circles they 

* In order to prove to the public that they did not make use of their hands 
test conditions were imposed by filling both the brothers’ hands with flour and 
then tying them behind their backs. Almost every publication that has written 
an expose of the Davenport Brothers claims with glee that the trick was per- 
formed by putting flour into their pockets from which they took a fresh 
handful after the manifestations were finished and pretending that their hands 
were clenched all the time. It is claimed that once a committeeman instead of 
placing flour in their hands filled them with snuff and after the manifestations 
had been performed they had their hands fulls of flour. Ira told me that this 
was a deliberate lie as they did not need to get rid of the flour in their hands 
as they could do all the tricks with their hands clenched using the free thumb. 

f The levitation act which has helped to swell the ranks of the Spiritualists 
and which mystified scientist and laymen alike, was one of the simplest decep- 
tions ever practiced on the guileless masses by cunning mediums. A reformed 
medium in Bristol, England, told me that he would endeavor to free himself 
from his restraints, and by deft manipulations managed to pick up a person 
who sat in a chair nearby. Although the sitter had only been lifted a few 
inches from the floor he believed in all good faith that his head had actually 
brushed the ceiling, this impression being created by the medium gently passing 
his hand over the top of the sitter’s head. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


25 


ran a cord through button holes on all present, ostensibly 
to “prevent collusion with the medium,” but in reality as 
a protection against a surprise seizure. They once heard 
that the Pinkerton Detective agency had been hired to catch 
them and in order to effectually forestall any meddler, 
they had a confederate smuggle in a bear-trap and after 
the seance room was darkened set the trap in the aisle. 

I called Ira’s attention to a clipping concerning the 
“Dark Seances” from the London Post, a conservative 
paper, which read: 

“The musical instruments, bells, etc., were placed on 
the table; the Brothers Davenport were then manacled, 
hands and feet, and securely bound to the chairs by ropes. 
A chain of communication (though not a circular one) 
was formed, and the instant the lights were extinguished 
the musical instruments appeared to be carried all about 
the room. The current of air, which they occasioned in 
their rapid transit was felt upon the faces of all present. 

“The bells were loudly rung ; the trumpets made knocks 
upon the floor, and the tambourine appeared running 
around the room, jingling with all its might. At the same 
time sparks were observed as if passing from South to 
West. Several persons exclaimed that they were touched 
by the instruments, which on one occasion became so 
demonstrative that one gentleman received a knock on 
the nasal organ which broke the skin and caused a few 
drops of blood to flow” 

After I finished reading it Ira exclaimed: 

“Strange how people imagine things in the dark! 
Why, the musical instruments never left our hands yet 
many spectators would have taken an oath that they 
heard them flying over their heads.” * 

*As to the delusion of sound. Sound waves are deflected just as light waves 
are reflected by the intervention of a proper medium and under certain conditions 



26 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Ira Davenport positively disclaimed Spiritualistic 
power in his talk with me, saying repeatedly that he and 
his brother never claimed to be mediums or pretended 
their work to be Spiritualistic. He admitted, however, 
that his parents died believing that the boys had super- 
human power. In this connection he told me of a family 
by the name of Kidder in which the boys faked Spiritual- 
istic mediumship. The mother, a simple woman easily 
misled, became a confirmed believer. After a time the 
boys got tired of the game they were playing and con- 
fessed to her that it was all a fake. The shock of the 
disillusion almost drove her insane and Ira said it was 
the fear of a similar result which kept him from con- 
fessing to his father the true nature of their work. So 
when the father asked the boys to do tests for him they 
declared that the spirits said “no” and explained that they 
could only do what the spirits asked. 

But if the Davenport Brothers did not claim spiritual 
powers themselves they nevertheless allowed others to 
claim them in their behalf. One of the first to do this 
was J. B. Ferguson, variously known as “Mr.,” “Rev.,” 
and “Dr.,” but I have no way of knowing how his titles 
came to him or just what they represented. If I am not 
mistaken he had been a minister in the Unitarian Church. 
He travelled with the Davenports as their lecturer, a posi- 
tion filled later by Thomas L. Nichols. Ferguson posi- 
tively believed that everything accomplished by the 
Davenports was done with the aid of spirits. That both 
Ferguson and Nichols believed in Spiritualism is shown 
by their writings. Neither of them were disillusioned 
regarding the spiritual powers of the Brothers, the secret 

it is a difficult thing to locate their source. Stuart Cumberland told me an 
interesting test to prove the inability of a blindfolded person to trace sound to 
its source. It is exceedingly simple; merely clicking two coins over the head of 
the blindfolded person. 




IRA ERASTUS DAVENPORT AND HOUDINT, TAKEN ON JULY 5 , 1911 . THE LAST 
PHOTOGRAPH OF THE OLD SHOWMAN 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


27 


of the manifestations being religiously kept from them. 
Their remarks were left to their own discretion, the Daven- 
ports thinking it better showmanship to leave the whole 
matter for the audience to draw its own conclusion after 
seeing the exhibition. Then too with a minister as a 
lecturer who sincerely believed the phenomena many 
were led to believe, which helped to fill the coffers, meet 
the expenses, and increase the publicity which was a 
necessary part of the game. 

In one of the letters which Ira wrote me he says: 

“We never in public affirmed our belief in Spiritualism, 
that we regarded as no business of the public; nor did 
we offer our entertainment as the result of sleight-of-hand, 
or on the other hand as Spiritualism. We let our friends 
and foes settle that as best they could between themselves, 
but unfortunately, we were often the victims of their 
disagreements.” 

In a letter which Ira wrote from Maysville, dated 
January 19, 1909, which I received while in Europe, he 
says: 

“You must not fail to do me the honor of a visit when 
you return to America, although two years is quite a long 
time, and in the mean time, please let me hear from you 
whenever the ‘Spirit’ moves. 

“Regarding the future, I think the possibilities within 
your grasp are almost boundless, splendid new territory, 
all South of Central America, Mexico, Australia, New 
Zealand, India, Spain, Portugal and Africa.” * 

“My old-time travelling companion, William M. Fay, 

* This refers to our contemplated tour of the world* When I first became 
acquainted with Ira Davenport in 1909 I found that he was very anxious to re- 
enter the entertainment field and we set about planning a tour of the world 
together. By combining his reputation and my knowledge and experience we 
would have been able to set the world agog. Under no circumstances, however, 
would we have claimed our performance Spiritualistic, but just a mystery 
entertainment. 



28 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


told me four years ago while on a visit here from Aus- 
tralia, that he and Harry Kellar cleared over $40,000 in 
about eight months in South America, and Mexico, and 
that was thirty-four years ago, and that the opportunities 
are now vastly improved, such as railroads , instead of 
mules, increase of population, advance in civilization in 
those backward countries. He says it would be a pleasure 
trip now to what it was when he and Kellar had to travel 
on muleback. He was very enthusiastic on the subject 
of making another tour and we would have done so hut 
for the fact that his physicians strongly advised against 
it on account of poor health and weakened physical con- 
dition. He is living at present in Melbourne, Australia, 
having settled there with his family in 1877, shortly after 
the death of my brother, which occurred July 1, 1877. 
He is not at all contented, notwithstanding his pleasant 
surroundings and ample fortune; after a man has become 
a regular ‘ Globe Trotter I don’t think it possible for 
him to settle down and lead a quiet monotonous life. . . . 
I wish here to say that our first tour through Europe 
consumed four years, leaving this country, August 26, 
1864, returning September 29, 1868. Our second trip 
took us over three years, leaving here March 22, 1874, 
and returning October 20, 1877, four months after the 
death of my brother.” 

When exhibiting in Liverpool the Davenports were the 
cause of quite a riot * which not only militated against 
them hut stirred up some political strife as well. I will 
quote Ira’s account of it from a letter to me dated 
January 19, 1909. 

* The start of the Liverpool riot can be laid indirectly to Ferguson. He 
protested the way the boys had been secured and without waiting for instruc- 
tions or a word from the Brothers, whipped out a knife and cut the ropes. Ire. 
told me that it was too bad that Ferguson did that for they never could have 
secured them so they could not have produced some manifestations. 



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FACSIMILE OF PORTIONS OF A LETTER WRITTEN TO HOUDINI BY IRA E. DAVENPORT 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


29 


“Well, yes, regarding Liverpool, I have very vivid 
recollections, and after forty-four years they are far from 
being ‘scenes of mystified events,’ they were results 
of peculiar combinations, of unfortunate circumstances, 
professional jealousy, religious prejudice, anti-American 
feeling, with a few other disturbing elements thrown in, 
including ‘fenianism,’ * which was engaging the public 
attention at that time, all worked up to a white heat 
culminating in one of the most spectacular displays of 
‘English Fair Play’ that was ever presented to an appreci- 
ative English public. . . . While in Liverpool and some 
other towns in England, we could not appear in the streets 
without being greeted by threatening crowds, with such 
exclamations as ‘Yankee Doodle,’ ‘John Brown’s Body,’ 
‘Barnum’s Humbug,’ ‘Yankee Swindle,’ ‘Fegi Mer- 
maid,’ and many other nice things too numerous to 
mention. . . . 

“I think my experience in Liverpool stands out as the 
most prominent example of ‘Fair Play’ ever dealt out 
to any American citizens and a nauseating example 
to all foreigners of ‘ ’ow’ the average Englishman does 
things at ‘ ’ome.’ ... It was well known that we were 
Northern men, and the world knows how the English 
sympathized with the slave holders’ rebellion, and they did 
not miss any opportunity of showing how they felt at the 
time on the subject. While pretending that their brutal 
displays of hostility were caused by our refusal to be tied 
by a particular kind of knot, in fact our only offence was, 
objecting to be tortured at the risk of being permanently 
maimed or crippled for life. . . . Our appeal to the 
British public at the time is a plain truthful statement 

* Ira told me that during the disturbance in Liverpool, John Hughes, 
Fenian head, offered him five hundred Irishmen to clean up an y mob of 
Englishmen. 



30 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


of the facts, regarding the riots in Liverpool, Hudders- 
field, and Leeds which several of the English papers had 
the fairness to publish. All England seemed to have 
gone mad on the subject of cabinet smashing and specu- 
lative sharpers reaped a rich harvest selling bogus pieces 
of smashed Davenport cabinet. Wood enough was sold 
in small pieces to make ten times as many cabinets as 
the Davenport Brothers ever used during their public 
career. . . . Although I am now in my 70th year, I 
would not for one moment hesitate to face the public of 
Liverpool, Huddersfield, and Leeds, and try conclusions 
with them again, drawing no line or limitations except 
those of torturing or maiming one for life. ... I shall 
always feel a great deal of pleasure in your success, espe- 
cially in meeting and overcoming anything in the nature 
of hostility and opposition. I remember seeing a notice 
of the death of Dr. Slade quite a while ago. I became 
acquainted with him in 1860. He then resided in the 
State of Michigan.” 

The above excerpt shows the pluck and courage of 
a genuine showman at the age of seventy, still ready for 
a tussle with an entertainment based on natural laws. 

The Davenport Brothers while exhibiting in Manches- 
ter, England, had the distinction of being publicly imi- 
tated and ridiculed by two celebrated actors, Sir Henry 
Irving and Edward A. Sothem, who were appearing at 
the Theatre Royal. With some friends they had wit- 
nessed a performance by the Davenport Brothers and 
determined to expose what Irving termed a “shameful 
imposture.” With the assistance of these men he gave 
a private performance in imitation of the Davenport 
seance at a popular club and was so successful that he 
was requested to repeat it in a large hall. So on Satur- 
day, February 25, 1865, the Library Hall of the Man- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


31 


Chester Athenaeum was filled with an audience invited to 
witness “a display of ‘preternatural philosophy’ in a 
private seance a la Davenport provided by some well- 
known members of the theatrical profession playing in 
the city. 

A wig, a beard, a neckerchief, a tightly buttoned frock 
coat, and artistic makeup so completely transformed 
Irving that he looked the exact double of Dr. Ferguson. 
With his inimitable charm of manner Irving assumed the 
dignified air and characteristic gestures of the doctor 
and impersonating his reverend tones he gave an inter- 
esting and semi -jocose address with just enough serious- 
ness to keenly satirize the old doctor and at its close 
received thunderous applause from the delighted 
audience.* 

Irving and his friends then proceeded to imitate the 
manifestations with a remarkable degree of accuracy. 
“The ‘brothers’ were tied hand and foot, placed in a 
cabinet, and immediately began their manifestations. 
Weird noises were heard, hands became visible through 
the opening in the cabinet, musical instruments were seen 
floating in the air, and the trumpet was several times 
thrown out. When the doors were opened, the brothers 
were shown to be securely tied. They reproduced every 
effect of the performances accompanied by appropriate 
remarks and delightful witticisms from Irving.” 

At the close of the seance, the performers received a 
vote of thanks, the audience cheering Irving repeatedly. 
The Manchester papers were filled for several days with 
accounts and letters concerning the Irving seance, and in 
response to many urgent requests it was repeated a week 

* Ira told me that he believed that their success so diminished the popularity 
of the theatre where Irving was playing that the stars were forced to resort 
to various schemes to counteract the dwindling receipts at the box office. 

See Appendix B for Irving’s speech. 



32 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


later in the Free Trade Hall, but the net result of the 
exposure to Irving was the loss of his engagement at the 
Theatre Royal as he refused to capitalize its success by 
giving nightly performances at the theatre. 

The extent to which people allowed themselves to be 
deluded by the Davenport exhibitions is evident from the 
following passage taken from D. C. Donovan’s “Evidences 
of Spiritualism.” As a voluntary investigation committee 
of one he had been allowed to sit in the cabinet with the 
Brothers while the manifestations were in progress. In 
his account of his experiences he says: 

“Whilst I was inside, several arms were thrust out 
at the openings and distinctly seen by persons outside. 
Now it is certain that these were not the arms of the 
Brothers, because they could not have reached the open- 
ings without rising from their seats, and had they done 
this, I should have detected it in an instant; moreover, 
if their hands had been free, they could not have played 
six instruments at once and still have hands left with 
which to touch my face and hands and pull my hair. 
Some of my friends endeavor to persuade me that the 
Davenports did move, but that being in the dark I did 
not notice it. Darkness, however, although highly un- 
favorable to seeing, is not at all so to feeling, and I had 
my hands on their shoulders, where the slightest muscular 
moving would have been detected.” 

In view of what Ira Davenport told me about their 
manipulations I cannot read the above account without 
feeling sorry for Mr. Donovan, who, if his belief was 
genuine, had reached the highest point of delusion. 

Because of the particular qualifications and aptitude 
of magicians to detect fraud it is not surprising that 
Spiritualistic publications seize eagerly any word coming 
from them favorable to the cause of Spiritualism. With 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


33 


the comment, “it is well worth preserving and placing 
beside that of Belachini, the German conjuror, as an 
answer to those of our opponents, who, ignorant of leger- 
dermain, declare our phenomena to be of that character,” 
“The Spiritualist” of September 9, 1881, quoted from 
the Paris “ Revue Spirits ” the following statement of 
E. Jacobs, a French prestidigitator: 

“Relating to phenomena which occurred in Paris in 
1865, through the Brothers Davenport, spite of the asser- 
tions, more or less trustworthy, of the French and English 
journalists, and spite of the foolish jealousies of ignorant 
conjurors, I feel it my duty to show up the bad faith of 
one party, and chicanery of the other. . . . All that has 
been said or done adverse to these American mediums 
is absolutely untrustworthy. If we should judge rightly 
of a thing we must understand it, and neither the journal- 
ists nor the conjurors possess the most elementary knowl- 
edge of the science that governs these phenomena. As a 
Prestidigitator of repute and a sincere Spiritualist, I 
affirm that the mediumistic facts demonstrated by the two 
Brothers were absolutely true, and belong to the Spiritual- 
istic order of things in every respect. . . . Messrs. Henri 
Robin and Robert Houdin, when attempting to imitate 
these said feats, never presented to the public anything 
beyond an infantine and almost grotesque parody of the 
said phenomena, and it would be an ignorant and obstinate 
person who could regard the question seriously as set 
forth by these gentlemen. If, as I have reason to hope, 
the psychical studies to which I am applying myself at 
this time, succeed, I shall be able to establish clearly (and 
that by public demonstration) the immense line of de- 
marcation which separates mediumistic phenomena from 
conjuring proper, and then equivocation will be no longer 



34 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


possible, and persons will yield to evidence, or deny 
through predetermination. 

(Signed) “E. Jacobs.* 

“Experimenter and President of Conference to the 

Psychological Studies at Paris.” 

Dion Boucicault, an Irish Dramatist and actor of promi- 
nence in America and equally so in Europe, entertained 
the Davenports at his home in London (1865) where 
he felt assured that the room could not contribute to 
fraudulent results. Twenty-three friends, men of rank 
and some prominence, among them clergymen and med- 
ical doctors, were in attendance. He id not report if 
any were believers, but it is inferred from his writing 
that none were. As in other cases, the utmost precaution 
was taken to render conditions most acceptable to the 
investigators, nevertheless, the usual manifestations took 
place and Mr. Boucicault wrote lengthy reports as to 
details, and as a conclusion to his report he wrote: 

“At the termination of the seance a general conversa- 
tion took place on the subject of what we had heard 
and witnessed. Lord Bury suggested that the general 
opinion seemed to be that we should assure the Brothers 
Davenport and Mr. W. Fay, that after a very stringent 
trial and strict scrutiny of their proceedings, the gentle- 
men present could arrive at no other conclusion than 
that there was no trace of trickery in any form, and 
certainly there were neither confederates nor machinery 
and that all those who had witnessed the results would 
freely state in society in which they moved, that, so far 
as their investigations enabled them to form an opinion, 

* The reader should not confuse this man Jacobs with Jacoby , the German 
esc ape- artist, a rope specialist who invented a. number of rope tricks that are 
still well worth presenting. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


35 


the phenomena which had taken place in their presence 
were not the product of legerdemain. This suggestion 
was promptly acceded to by all present. 

“Some persons think that the requirement of darkness 
seems to infer trickery. Is not a dark chamber essential 
in the process of photography? And what would we 
reply to him who would say, ‘I believe photography to 
he a humbug — do it all in the light, and we will believe 
otherwise’? It is true that we know why darkness is 
necessary to the production of the sun-pictures; and if 
scientific men will subject these phenomena to analysis, 
we shall find out why darkness is essential to such mani- 
festations. It is a subject which scientific men are not 
justified in treating with the neglect of contempt. — I am, 
etc., 

“Dion Boucicault.” 

Richard Francis Burton, eminent English traveller, 
writer, and translator of The Arabian Nights, wrote to 
Dr. Ferguson, Davenport Brothers’ lecturer and man- 
ager: 

“I have spent a great part of my life in oriental lands, 
and have seen there many magicians. ... I have read 
and listened to every explanation of the Davenport ‘tricks’ 
hitherto placed before the English public, and, believe 
me, if anything would make me take that tremendous 
jump ‘from matter to spirit,’ it is the utter and complete 
unreason of the reasons by which the ‘manifestations’ are 
explained.” 

Nor was it in England alone that able men were com- 
pletely fooled by the Davenports’ performance. French- 
men as well, after seeing the exhibition, hastened to put 
their favorable opinions in writing. Hamilton, a well- 



36 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


known expert in the art of legerdemain, and son-in-law 
of Robert Houdin, the famous conjuror, wrote: 

“Messrs. Davenport, — Yesterday I had the pleasure of 
being present at the seance you gave, and I came away 
from it convinced that jealousy alone was the cause of 
the outcry against you. The phenomena produced sur- 
passed my expectations, and your experiments were full 
of interest for me. I consider it my duty to add that those 
phenomena are inexplicable, and the more so by such 
persons as have thought themselves able to guess your 
supposed secret, and who are, in fact, far indeed from 
discovering the truth. 

“Hamilton.” 

M. Rhys, a manufacturer of conjuring implements and 
himself an inventor of tricks, wrote the Davenports: 

“. . . I have returned from one of your seances quite 
astonished. As a person who has devoted many years to 
the manufacture of instruments for legerdemain perform- 
ances, my statement made with due regard to fidelity, 
and guided by the knowledge long experience has given 
me, will, I trust, he of some value to you. ... I was 
admitted to examine your cabinet and instruments . . . 
with the greatest care hut failed to find anything that 
could justify legitimate suspicions. From that moment 
I felt that the insinuations cast about you were false and 
malevolent.” 

These are hut a few of innumerable instances where men 
of culture, knowledge and experience, were deluded by 
the performance of the Davenport Brothers, just as men 
are to-day with my presentations, and when the reader 
takes into consideration the confession of Ira Erastus 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


37 


Davenport * to me in 1909, and the fact that he taught 
me his full method of manipulating seances, he can then 
form some conception of the extent to which the most 
intelligent minds can be led astray by what seem to them 
phenomena, hut to me, mere problems susceptible of 
lucid explanation. 

* He wrote me a letter on July 5th, 1911, and was waiting to see me at the 
time of his death on the 8th. I was to leave New York on receipt of his 
letter but his daughter Zelie wired me of his passing away. 



CHAPTER III 


DANIEL DUNGLAS HOME 

Following the first seances of the “Fox Sisters,” 
in 1848, mediums sprang up all over the country like 
mushrooms hut of this multitude there have not been 
more than a dozen whose work, in spite of repeated 
exposure, is still pointed to as proof of Spiritualism, and 
whose names have found a permanent place in connection 
with its development and history. Of these, one of the 
most conspicuous and lauded of his type and generation 
was Daniel Dunglas Home. He was the forerunner of 
the mediums whose forte is fleecing by presuming upon 
the credulity of the subject. A new and fertile field was 
opened and from that time to the present day there have 
been numerous cases- of mediums falling into the clutches 
of the law as a direct result of using his methods, but 
Home had characteristics which went far in many cases 
to keep him out of trouble. Outwardly a lovable char- 
acter with a magnetic personality and a great fondness 
for children; suave, captivating to the last degree, a good 
dresser fond of displaying jewelry; an appearance of ill- 
health which aroused sympathy and with an assumption 
of piety and devotion to established forms of religious 
worship, he made his way easily and found favor with 
many who would have spurned him under other condi- 
tions and this too, strange as it may seem, in spite of 
persistent rumors of immorality in his private life. 

Home helped to build up his reputation by not charg- 

ss 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


39 


ing for his mediumistic services. The claim that he did 
not accept fees for his sittings may, or may not, be quite 
true, hut the fact remains that the spirits were good to 
him and provided for his temporal needs abundantly 
and sumptuously, and he subsisted on the bounty of his 
Spiritualistic friends who seemed to rival one another in 
entertaining him in their homes for long periods and 
showering him with gifts, a practice which began in 
America and was continued in England and on the Con- 
tinent to an extent which made a life of positive luxury 
possible. 

It is strongly intimated that the gifts which Home 
received were in many cases suggested by the Spirits he 
invoked and his spirit guide seems to have always kept a 
sharp eye on his need for earthly sustenance even to the 
point of satisfactorily bedecking his person with jewelry. 
This was always materialized for him when required, and 
since he, personally, could not be held responsible for 
what wicked spirits might do, and as they used good 
judgment in picking victims, nothing was said about it 
and he escaped the prison fate of Ann O’Delia Diss Debar. 

His early life was spent in Connecticut but whether at 
the home of his aunt in Waterford or with his mother in 
Norwich, twelve miles away, is a question, but certain 
it is that at the death of his mother he went to the aunt’s. 
This was when he was . seventeen, two years after the 
“Fox Sisters” had begun their career in New York State. 
How much he had heard of them is uncertain, something 
no doubt, and it is not strange that a youth of his charac j 
teristics might want to emulate them. Then too his 
mother had the reputation of being possessed of so-called 
“second-sight” and he may have inherited traits which 
helped to make the life of a medium look attractive to him. 
At any rate, claiming the assistance of his mother’s spirit, 



40 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


he tried out his mediumistic powers at the homes of the 
neighbors with such success that before long he an- 
nounced to his aunt that he was going to set up as a 
professional Spiritualist. The lady, a devout Trinitarian, 
was so shocked and disturbed, he tells us, that “in her un- 
controllable anger she seized a chair and threw it at me.” 
But much as she disliked the idea of the young man be- 
coming a medium his performances soon attracted so much 
attention that she was reconciled to his leaving her home 
in Norwich to go to Willimantic, Connecticut, where he 
began his life-long custom of living on the bounty of 
friends and dupes. His first feats were of the simplest 
kind such as are in the repertoire of every itinerant side- 
show proprietor, hut his success seems to have been in- 
stantaneous. One reason for this was that while mediums 
as a class were a lazy lot Home was an untiring worker 
as well as an unflinching egotist and his personal qualities 
went far to disarm suspicion and inspire confidence in 
the minds of his dupes. 

Where he obtained his early education does not appear 
hut the records are full of indications of considerable 
intellectuality. He claimed to have studied medicine and 
obtained a degree in New York hut he never practiced. 
In his later years he set up a studio in Italy * and gave his 

* When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was appearing in Australia in 1920 he 
met Bendigo Rymer, the grandson of J. S Rymer, who had entertained Home 
lavishly. Bendigo showed Sir Arthur a number of letters from his grandfather 
which proved conclusively that Home had been guilty of taking advantage of 
the man’s friendship. Rymer had entertained Home in England and sent him 
to Rome with his son to study art. From Rome young Rymer wrote his 
father that as soon as Home had been able to elbow his way into society he 
totally ignored him though as host he was paying Home’s expenses. Finally 
Home ran away and lived with a titled English woman, shunning Rymer 
altogether. 

Sir Arthur in his book, “The Wanderings of a Spiritualist,” says in reference 
to Home: “For weeks he lived at her villa, although the state of his health 
would suggest that it was rather as a patient than a lover.” In his introduction 
to Madame Home’s book Sir Arthur entirely forgives this rude action of Home 
and strongly defends his base ingratitude. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


41 


attention to sculpture between seances and “sold busts 
at prices quite out of proportion to their artistic merits.” 
He studied elocution too and is said to have given many 
successful readings.* He also had the credit of being 
quite a musician and playing several instruments, which 
partially explains his accordion trick. With it all he was 
considerable of a linguist, toward the last being able to 
speak most of the modern tongues. He was the author 
of two pretentious books f whose chief purpose seems to 
have been to establish the impression that while all other 
mediums cheated at times Home was strictly honest on all 
occasions, and in proof it was said that he was never ex- 
posed and never received a fee for his sittings. Never- 
theless one charge of fraud was proven against him in 
court. X It may or may not be true that he was never 

completely exposed but many of his manifestations were 
discovered to be fraudulent and every one of them 
can be duplicated by modern conjurors under the same 
conditions. The principal reason why he was never 
completely exposed was that he gave no public sittings, 
always appearing as the guest of the family where he was 
living and as one writer expressed it, “one would no more 
think of criticising his host’s guest than he would his 
host’s wine.” 

On one occasion Robert Browning, the poet, attended 

* Home, the Spiritualist, is giving readings in Boston. Has he given up 
his Spiritualism in disgust at finding that people who strained at his manifesta- 
tions have swallowed the Davenports? We are glad to think he has adopted an 
honest profession at last, and we hope before long to see his rivals rising to 
sweeping a crossing or something as respectable . — London Fun, 1864. 

t “Incidents in My Life,” London, 1863 — “Lights and Shadows of Spiritual- 
ism,” 1877. 

t It is quite unnecessary for me to repeat the many proofs of fraud perpe- 
trated by Home, but if the reader is interested he will find many such cases 
reported by Mr. Frank Podmore in “Modern Spiritualism,” London, 1902, and 
“Newer Spiritualism,” London, 1910. Mr. Podmore was a Spiritualist himself 
and a member of the Society of Psychical Research and would naturally make 
out as good a case for Home as he could honestly. 



42 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


one of Home’s seances. He had become somewhat 
alarmed by his wife’s interest in Spiritualism, and when a 
face was materialized and said to be that of a son who had 
died in infancy, Browning seized the supposed material- 
ized head and discovered it to be the bare foot of Mr. 
Home. Incidentally, Browning had never lost an infant 
son. The living son, R. Barrett Browning, in a letter to 
the London Times, December 5, 1902, referring to this 
occurrence said, “Home was detected in a vulgar fraud.” 
In the same letter he tells of the modification of His 
mother’s belief after having been deceived by a “trusted 
friend” and his closing words were: “The pain of the 
disillusion was great, but her eyes were opened and she 
saw clearly.” 

What might be called Home’s American apprenticeship 
began in 1850 and in spite of his youth and inexperience 
he succeeded in convincing many prominent persons of 
the genuineness of his phenomena, among them being 
such men as Judge Edmonds,* William Cullen Bryant, 
and Bishop Clarke of Rhode Island. In the spring of 
1855 a committee of admirers collected a sum of money 
sufficient to send him to England and establish himself 
comfortably. He carried with him a letter of introduc- 
tion to a man of scientific tastes by the name of Cox who 
was proprietor of Cox’s Hotel, in Jermyn Street, and 
through whose influence he was able to arrange sittings 
with Lord Brougham, Sir David Brewster, Robert Owen, 
T. A. Trollope, Sir E. Bulwer Lytton, and others equally 
prominent. 

After only a few months’ stay in England Home went 
to Italy, ostensibly for his health, and for the next four 
years he lived on the Continent, travelling from place to 
place, living in luxury, being almost continually enter* 

* See Appendix F. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


43 


tained in the homes of “friends,” which in almost every 
case were people of rank and wealth. He seems to have 
had little difficulty in meeting royalty and nobility on 
terms of intimacy even numbering among his patrons the 
Emperor and Empress of France as well as the Czar of 
Russia. From this clientele he received many and valu- 
able gifts. At the Russian Court, with its leaning toward 
the occult, he was especially welcomed and lived for weeks 
at a time in the palace of the Czar, like the similar careers 
of Washington Irving Bishop, Mons. Phillipi, and Ras- 
putin. During his stay in Russia he met a beautiful young 
lady of rank and with the approval of the Czar married her.* 

Home at this time had already begun to show that 
fondness for precious stones which finally became so pro- 
nounced that a few years later an English writer in de- 
scribing him said: 

“But the salient feature of the man after all was his 
jewels. On the third finger of the left hand he wore an 
immense solitaire, which flashed imperial splendors with 
every movement; above that a sapphire of enormous size; 
on the other hand was a large yellow diamond and a 
superb ruby set in brilliants.” 

But these were not all for the writer adds a list of others 
in Home’s possession which would easily arouse the envy 
of any multi-millionaire’s wife. In view of this fondness 
for jewels an incident which occurred just prior to Home’s 
leaving the Russian Court is interesting. The story was 
told me by Stuart Cumberland. I have heard him repeat 
it to others and he also tells it in his book, “That Other 
World,” from which I quote. 

“Whilst in Petrograd — so at least, a famous diplomat 
assured me when I was there — Home did a feat of de- 
materialization before the Court which, had it not been for 

* She only lived about four years. 



44 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


the favor in which he was held in high places, might have 
curtailed his liberty for a period. 

“He had dematerialized a splendid row of emeralds lent 
the “dear spirits” for the purpose of the test; but up to 
the time of his departure from the seance, the emeralds, 
for some occult reason, had declined to materialize and 
be given back to the confiding owner. They were, of 
course, in the spirit land engaging the attention of the 
spooks, who seemed to have a pretty taste for valuable 
jewels. But the chief of police had not that faith in 
spiritual probity generally accepted at the Court, and 
before leaving the palace, Home was searched, and — so 
the story came to me — the dematerialized emeralds were 
found materializing in his coat-tail pocket. They had been 
placed there by an evil spirit, of course, but the chief of 
police impressed upon the medium that the climate of 
the Russian Capital might not be good for his health — 
that an early departure would probably benefit it. Home 
took the hint and his early departure. To his dying day, 
I think he regretted the interference of the evil spirit (or 
the police). It would have been so much more satis- 
factory for the jewels to have remained dematerialized in 
the spirit land, to be materialized at will with no inter- 
fering police around, for they, the jewels, were of great 
earthly value.” 

The year 1859 found Home back in England and 
marked the commencement of what proved to be the 
period of his greatest success. It was but a few years 
later that he attempted his most noted financial venture. 
He had become established in Sloane Street, London, as 
Secretary of what was called “The Spiritual Athenaeum.” 
One day, late in 1866, there came to him a widow by the 
name of Jane Lyon who was anxious to join his society. 
She was seventy-five years old and besides being wealthy 




A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


45 


in her own right had been left ample means by her hus- 
band. Previous to calling on Home she had read his 
book, believed it, and in addition been having a series of 
unusual dreams. The medium had little difficulty in 
finding a way to make it possible for her to join the 
Athenaeum, and she told how later at this first meeting 
her husband’s spirit “had communicated with her through 
Home, and knotted her handkerchief.” Just all that the 
spirit of her husband said to her at this interview does not 
appear but it was enough to persuade her to give him 
twenty -four thousand pounds. The spirits became very 
much interested in Mrs. Lyon’s affairs and in November, 
at their direction, Home burned her will and before long 
she gave him another six thousand pounds. 

The attachment between the widow of seventy-five and 
the medium of thirty -three grew apace and soon the spirit 
of her husband suggested that she adopt Home as her son 
“for he would he such a comfort to her.” The suggestion 
was immediately acted upon and the medium began to call 
himself Daniel Home Lyon. Nor was the spirit forgetful 
of the needs of a son, suggesting that an allowance of 
seven hundred pounds a year would he about right. In 
January (1867) Mrs. Lyon assigned a mortgage of thirty 
thousand pounds to Home, only reserving the interest as 
an annuity for herself. Not until a month later did she 
become worried and consult a lawyer, who assured her 
that she had been imposed upon, but she was not con- 
vinced until she had questioned the spirits through a girl 
of twelve, the daughter of a flower medium by the name 
of Murray. As reported by this girl even the spirits 
seemed to think that Mrs. Lyon had been fleeced out of 
sixty thousand pounds and she accordingly demanded its 
return by Home. He ignored the demand but offered to 



46 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


return the mortgage if she would give him undisputed 
possession of the first thirty thousand pounds and allow 
him to drop the name of Lyon. She would not agree to 
this. Home was arrested and a suit for recovery begun. 
The litigation was long, the case finally ending in May, 
1868, with a judgment in favor of Mrs. Lyon; the Court 
holding that as the transfer of money and deed had been 
accomplished by fraud it was therefore void. In his clos- 
ing remarks the Vice Chancellor referred to Mrs. Lyon 
as an old lady with a mind “ saturated with delusion ” and 
characterized Spiritualism as being, according to the evi- 
dence, a “system of mischievous nonsense well calculated 
to delude the vain, the weak, the foolish, and the super- 
stitious.” * 

Home continued his mediumship, notwithstanding, and 
between 1870 and 1872 he held several seances with Sir 
William Crookes, f who was so impressed that he credited 
him with being “one of the most lovable of men — whose 
perfect genuineness was above suspicion,” an opinion 
strikingly in contrast with the verdict in the case of Mrs. 
Lyon, but which shows how thoroughly and easily the 
followers of Spiritualism are beguiled and misled. No 
medium is ever open to suspicion by the faithful and 
Sir William Crookes’ statement encourages the belief that 

* In his introduction to the 1921 edition of “D. D. Home’s Life and Work,” 
by Madame Home, Doyle declares that he commends the book to the student, 
saying: 

“Very especially the second series is commended to the student of Home, 
because in it will be found all the papers dealing with the Home-Lyon 
lawsuit showing conclusively how honorable was the action of Home.” 

Does he wish us to infer that it was Home who brought the suit against 
Mrs. Lyon, rather than the opposite? 

Does he wish it understood that he is sincere in his commendation of a 
charlatan? 

Throughout the introduction he defends Home and seems to deliberately 
twist the history of the man. 

t It is interesting to note that Sir William Crookes, the eminent scientist, 
who must have known of the history and character ^of Home as unveiled at the 
Lyon trial, should have permitted himself to fall within the mesh of D. D. Home. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 47 

even scientists are not always immune from the influence 
of personal magnetism. He is also quoted as saying: 

“As to the theory of fraud, it is obvious that this theory 
can account for a very small portion of the facts observed. 
I am willing to admit that some so-called mediums of 
whom the public have heard much, are arrant impostors, 
who have taken advantage of the public demand for Spir- 
itualistic excitement, to fill their purses with easily earned 
guineas; while others who have no pecuniary motive for 
imposture are tempted to cheat, it would seem, solely by 
a desire for notoriety 

So it will be seen that even 
Professor Crookes, while de- 
fending the so-called genuine 
medium, in the same breath 
admits that there are fraudu- 
lent practitioners. 

Home gained wide no- 
toriety for unusual phe- 
nomena by his reputed levi- 
tation acts, wherein he would 

£ , , . ■. DIAGRAM SHOWING ARRANGEMENT OF 

slide irom the chair on which booms, WINDOWS, ETC., WHERE HOME’S 

he was sitting to a horizontal EEPDTED ■*" OF ™ ATIsa re- 
position, then ask to have the 

chair removed as it was not supporting him, and would 
| “float” under a table and back, but his masterpiece, the 

1 incident oftenest referred to, was sailing out of a window 

| feet first, and sailing into another, seven feet and four 

1 inches distant, landing feet first in an adjacent room, where 

I he “sat down.” Lord Adare, an observer, expressed sur- 

! prise that he could have been carried through an aperture 

I so narrow as eighteen inches whereupon “Home, still en- 

\ tranced said, ‘I will show you,’ and then with his back to 

the window he leaned over and was shot out of the apex- 

i 

$ 




48 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


ture , head first, with the body rigid, and then returned 
quite quietly .” * f 

This is the way the story has been recounted again and 
again by Spiritualist writers and speakers and to this day is 
told by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with as much seriousness 
as if he had been an eyewitness of the occurrence in the full 
glare of a noon-day sun. 

“When D.D. made that ‘home-run’ ” around the outside 
of his house he seems to have been seeking an altitude 
rather than a speed record, as the three reliable (?) wit- 
nesses agree that the windows through which he floated 
were in the third story and either sixty or eighty feet from 
the ground. This would make the height of each story 
from twenty to twenty-seven feet, but tall stories appear 
to have been a specialty with these remarkably observant 
gentlemen. 

In 1920 I made plans for reproducing this window feat 
Under the same conditions as Home and the late Stuart 
Cumberland openly challenged Spiritualists that I was 
ready to submit to such a test but no response was re- 
ceived before I left Europe. Consequently I desire to go 
on record as being able to perform the same phenomena 
(?) provided I am given the same conditions and scope 
which Home was. I believe that those who witnessed the 
feat were sincere in giving credence to it but that it was 
an illusion and they were deceived by Home, for the mind 

* Taking for granted that the committee in the room was not able to see or 
permitted to leave the table the method Home could have used with the greatest 
ease was: first actually get out of the window, or pretend to; then, go back and 
noiselessly crawl on all fours through the door into the next room and shake the 
window; and lastly, boldly return to the first room, closing the door with a bang. 

There is a possibility that a man of Home’s audacity with levitation feats 
might have resorted to swinging from one window to another, which means 
nothing to any acrobat with a wire properly placed in readiness. 

The idea of Home losing his physical weight and floating out of the window 
head first is merely a suggestion of his, a ruse which is still being used by 
mediums. 

t See Appendix C for Lord Adare’s story* 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


49 


of the average person accepts what it sees and is not will- 
ing to apply the laws of physics, no matter how much or 
how glaringly the act defies the fundamental principles 
upon which our very existence depends. 

The years between 1859 and 1872 were those of 
Home’s greatest sucess. Toward the end of this period, 
however, his popularity waned and having for a second 
time married a lady belonging to the Russian nobility, he 
gave up the practice of his profession, broke with nearly 
all his former friends and returned to the Continent where 
he devoted much of his time to writing. He died in 1886 
and is buried at St. Germain-en-Laye. 

His active career, his various escapades, and the direct 
cause of his death * all indicate that he lived the life of a 
hypocrite of the deepest dye. How strange that these in- 
spired agents of “Summerland,” these human deliverers 
of messages, these stepping stones to the Beyond, are, for 
the greater part, moral perverts whose favorite defence is 
the claim that they are forced to do such deeds by the 
evil spirits which take possession of them. 

* There are numerous versions of the cause of his death. Mme. Blavatsky, 
who made a special investigation of the deaths of prominent mediums, wrote: 
“This Calvin of Spiritualism suffered for years from a terrible spinal disease, 
brought on through his intercourse with the ‘Spirits,’ and died a perfect wreck.” 
—“Key to Theosophy,” 1890. 



CHAPTER IV 


PALLADINO 

Eusapia Palladino, an Italian, has to her credit the 
successful deception of more philosophic and scientific 
men than any other known medium, being regarded hy 
some as the most famous of them all, notwithstanding the 
fact that she seems to have made no pretence of producing 
the class of miracles claimed by D. D. Home and many 
others. Materialization was rarely resorted to by her 
and there is very little variety in her program from 1892 
up to the time of her death in 1918, evidently being con- 
tent to astonish investigating scientists with the levitation 
and gyrating of inanimate things.* 

Palladino was born in the Neapolitan district of poor 
peasants who died when she was a mere child. Naturally 
bright, even shrewd, her perceptive instinct seems to have 
developed early in life and continued throughout her 
careei though she had no education and to the end was 
scarcely able to read or write. 

Her first contact with the mysterious arts appears to 
have been when she was a mere child of thirteen (1867) 
in the service of an acrobat or conjuror f from whom she 
must have acquired some degree of skill and knowledge 

* Table lifting was a strong card with her. 

f“She was taken in a menial position into a family given to Spiritualistic 
practices Being called one day to make up the circle at a seance, certain new 
and surprising manifestations took place, and she was pronounced to be a 
medium. So it appears that the Spiritualists actually pushed her into the mat- 
ter, and she immediately took advantage of the opportunity.” — Proceedings, 
Society for Psychical Research, November, 1909, pp. 311, 312. 

50 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


51 


of the uncanny which she may have coupled up with the 
marvellous success achieved by Home, and her quick wit 
may have opened visions of a change from poverty to that 
affluence which she saw was the reward of the professional 
phenomena producer, for she began her Spiritualistic work 
just following his successful operations in Italy which 
served to spread Spiritualism in spite of Papal opposition. 
Her part must have been learned well and her plans care- 
fully laid before she made her debut as a full fledged 
medium because she succeeded from the start in baffling 
brainy men of science, and while as the wife of a small 
shop-keeper she was very poor, she became wealthy within 
twenty years after taking up mediumistic work. 

She did not attract the attention of the public until 
about 1880 when Professor Chiaia, who had been giving 
her a lot of attention without detecting her methods, chal- 
lenged Professor Lombroso, at that time the most distin- 
guished scientific man in Italy, to investigate her. Pro- 
fessor Lombroso did, but failed to detect any fraudulent 
work though his decision was delayed for so long a time 
that when it was finally given it was claimed that his 
mentality had weakened considerably.* 

In 1892 Palladino had begun to attract the attention of 
scientific men in different Italian cities and had also been 
brought to the notice of some of the English Spiritualists 
but it was not until 1894 that she went to France. This 
trip was brought about through the influence of Professor 
Richet, and Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor Sidgwick, and Mr. 
Myers took part in the proceedings. On the return of 
Lodge and Myers to England they aroused interest in 
Palladino by reporting her phenomena to be genuine. 

* Robert Owen, Prof. Hare, Prof. Challis, Prof. Zollner, Prof. Weber, and 
Lombroso were all near the end of their lives when they embraced Spiritualism. 
— See “Spiritualism,” by Joseph McCabe, page 207. 


52 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


The first exposure of Palladiuo was made by Dr. 
Richard Hodgson in 1895. A committee from the Eng- 
lish Society for Psychical Research, consisting of Here- 
ward Carrington, Hon. Everard Feilding, and Wortly W. 
Baggally, which had held a series of test seances with 
Palladino in Italy, brought her to England for a fresh 
try-out and another series of sittings was held. Very early 
in the series suspicious movements on the part of the 
medium were observed. Later Dr. Hodgson joined the 
circle and was able to show conclusively that by clever 
manipulation — sheer trickery — she was getting one hand 
free and with it making the movements observed. 

Her method * was to begin by allowing one hand to be 
firmly held by the sitter at her side (say on the left) and 
let the fingers of her other hand (right) rest on that of 
the sitter on her right. In the course of some rapid spas- 
modic movements she would bring the sitters’ hands so 
close together that one of her own could do duty for two, 
being held by one sitter while its fingers rested on the 
hand of the other sitter,f leaving her (Palladino’s) right 
hand free to produce the desired “phenomena” after 
which it was restored to its original position. Other de- 
vices equally dishonest were observed or inferred. 

All of these men were experienced seance observers X 
but the report of their conclusions shows how easily such 

* Another adroit method of freeing one hand when the sitter thinks he has 
evidence that the two hands of the medium are being kept busy, is for the 
medium to keep up a continuous clapping of the hands, working the hands near 
the face or some other exposed part of the body and simply change the clapping 
of one hand against another to the clapping of one hand against the body. In the 
dark the effect is the same and the sitter believes that both the medium’s hands 
are busily engaged in clapping. 

f Not difficult to accomplish in the dark. 

$Mr. Baggally had a reputation as a conjuror and I think he has done much 
in the way of exposing mediums. He is also a believer in telepathy and has 
recently published a book on that subject, “Telepathy, Genuine and Fraudu- 
lent,” Chicago, 1918. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


53 


experts were deceived by the very tricks which were later 
proved fraudulent by the New York branch of The So- 
ciety for Psychical Research. Mr. Feilding’s reports were 
the least positive of the three and show that when the best 
phenomena were observed the control was not complete 
and that the stenographic notes were deficient, and when 
read over the day following the sitting they seemed weak 
in comparison with a recollection of the manifestations. 
That the final reports were based largely on these recollec- 
tions is indicated by Mr. Feilding’s statement that: 

“We were forced from our proposed colorless attitude 
to one of almost proselyting affirmation.” 

When Palladino came to America in 1908 she was be- 
ginning to be world famous and her reputation was estab- 
lished; she was a shrewd woman with a large experience 
in the art of misdirection, and with a convenient subter- 
fuge of unaccommodating Spirit guides whenever her own 
resources were exhausted because of some over-zealous 
observer. For twenty years or more she had avoided de- 
tection because she had fixed the conditions under which 
tests were made and consequently as scientific investiga- 
tions they were simply farces. But in New York condi- 
tions were introduced which she did not approve for the 
simple reason that she did not know that they existed. 
Another difference was that in New York a number of 
rehearsals were held and each investigator was assigned 
to a special part of the work, thus guarding against the old 
trick of drawing the attention away from the place where 
a manifestation suddenly developed. The result was 
Palladino’s downfall. 

On her arrival in New York a group of Columbia pro- 
fessors became interested in Palladino and arranged for a 
series of ten test seances at one hundred and twenty-five 
dollars a sitting. Eight of the ten seances had been held 


54 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


and though a majority of the professors were satisfied that 
she was cheating they were unable to prove it. Although 
the seances were being conducted secretly by the scientists 
one of them, Professor Dickinson S. Miller, discussed Pal- 
ladino’s best trick, table levitation, with a friend of mine, 
Mr. W. S. Davis, himself an ex-medium whose seances 
were always given under test conditions. Davis not only 
explained to the Professor the probable method used by 
Palladino hut demonstrated it as well with the result that 
the Professor declared that a full exposure of Palladino 
should he made even if it cost ten thousand dollars and 
invited Davis to aid at the next seance candidly admitting 
that he and his associates were incapable of proper in- 
vestigation. 

Davis replied that scientists were not the kind of men 
he could work with hut if he would let him bring along a 
couple of “Flim-flam” men he would help. Professor 
Miller consented to this arrangement provided the men 
were palmed off as college professors as otherwise they 
would not be admitted. Davis then sent for John W. 
Sargent, a past-president of the Society of American Ma- 
gicians, and for years my private secretary. He also sent 
for another magician, James L. Kellogg. Both agreed 
with Davis that his theory of Palladino’s method was 
correct. Professor Miller then suggested, that in order to 
make the discovery complete and to corroborate any and 
all observations, two other persons should be selected to 
watch the feet of the medium. Davis accordingly selected 
Joseph F. Rinn, another member of the magicians society, 
who had assisted in various exposures of pseudo-mediums 
and Professor Miller named Warner C. Pyne, a student 
at Columbia. It was agreed that these two should be clad 
in black even to a head covering and smuggled into the 
room under cover of darkness after the seance had con- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


55 


vened and were to sprawl under the chairs and table in 
order that their heads might be near enough Palladino’s 
feet to detect any movement. I am indebted to my friend 
Davis for the following inside story of the sitting just as 
he gave it to me. 

“After the arrival of Eusapia and Mr. Livingston and 
when both had entered the seance room, Rinn and Pyne 
came downstairs and hid in the hall where they waited 
for their signal. When we were introduced and after the 
usual conversation, Eusapia said that she would begin. 
Before she had time to pick her controllers, Professor 
Miller ushered Kellogg and myself into the positions next 
to her. She took a seat at the narrow end of the table and 
with her back close to the cabinet curtains. (The cabinet 
was formed by placing curtains from the ceiling to the floor, 
extending out from one comer of the room). Kellogg 
sat at her right and I sat at her left. Eusapia sat close to 
the table and her black dress touched the table legs. She 
placed her right foot on the instep of Kellogg’s left foot 
and her left foot on my right foot, which was her guaran- 
tee that her feet should play no part in the production 
of the phenomena. We did not reduce the light at the 
beginning of the seance. 

“The rest of the party sitting around the table then 
placed their hands on its upper surface and formed the 
well known chain. Eusapia stamped Kellogg’s foot and 
i mine and asked us if the control was satisfactory which 

of course it was. Eusapia then drew her own hands away 
: from ours and soon light raps were heard. They were 

\ such as are easily and imperceptibly produced by sliding 

I the finger tips upon the table top. 

I “We were next favored with responsive raps, — doubling 

i up her hands she beat the air with her fists in a jerky, 

; spasmodic way when we heard the light noises on the 


56 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


wood. The exhibition above board did not occupy our 
entire attention. Every one in the party was interested in 
the theory of using a foot as a lever to raise the table. As 
she beat the air with her clenched fist, she correspondingly 
slid her feet away until we felt the pressure on the toe end 
of our feet only, whereas there had previously been pres- 
sure on the insteps. Kellogg and I both suspected that 
she had succeeded in removing one foot and was making 
the other do duty for two. From then on we commenced 
to get heavier raps, as though she struck the table leg 
with her foot. 

“In striking the table leg with the side of her shoe, thus 
producing raps, Eusapia also got the exact position in 
which her foot should, be placed for levitation. When 
she rocked the table from side to side it was only necessary 
to switch her toe an inch when the left leg of the table 
would come down on it, then all she had to do was to 
elevate her toe while the heel remained on the floor and 
either partial or complete levitation followed. 

“We looked pleased and Eusapia began to feel at home. 
With a little rest, the rocking was resumed and she con- 
sidered it safe to risk the entire levitation. Holding Kel- 
logg’s left hand up in the air with her right she put my 
right hand, palm down, on the top of the table, directly 
over the left table leg; then put her left hand over mine, 
the tips of the fingers extending rather over my hand and 
touching the table. No other hands were upon it. Then, 
after a few partial levitations, the table went up into the 
air with every leg off the floor. It was our first complete 
levitation. As beautiful as any on record and given under 
bright lights .” 

I asked Davis how he knew the levitation was fraudu- 
lent and he answered: 

“(1) During the partial levitations I casually lifted my 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


57 


left foot, passed it over the right foot in the direction of 
Eusapia and was unable to touch her left leg in the place 
where it should have been. (2) Her black dress touched 
the table leg and as she took her toe suddenly out from 
under it, her dress moved accordingly. (3) By the thud 
which the table made when it was deprived of its very 
material perch. (4) By the fact that any juggler can 
perform the feat when the ‘modus operand i is fully under- 
stood, though perhaps not with the same skill. (5) Every 
one present knew that the table was steadied at the top by 
Eusapia’s hand, which rested upon mine, in turn bore 
down over the table leg, held up presumably by Eusapia’s 
toe which formed a perfect human clamp.* (6) What 
Rinn and Pyne told us after the seance. They said that 
from their position under the chairs they saw Eusapia place 
her right foot upon Kellogg’s left and her left foot upon 
my right, later they saw her tapping upon our feet with 
hers while she made some changes in the position of her 
feet. They also saw her slide her left foot away by a few 
hitches as her right was twisted around to cover my right 
foot which had previously been under her left foot. They 
distinctly saw Eusapia strike the table leg with the side 
of her foot to produce the raps and they also saw her slide 
her toe under the table leg and force the table up by 
toe leverage.” f 

* The “human-clamp” is one of the simplest and yet one of the most effective 
and mystifying means of table levitation. The medium and her subjects place 
the tips of their fingers on the top of the table lightly. The medium gently 
rocks the table back and forth until she gets it in a correct position to place her 
foot, or the hem of her dress, under one of the legs. When she perfects her 
position she presses down with the hand above the table leg that is resting on 
her foot. From then on it is only a matter of raising the foot to whatever 
height she wishes the table to rise. If she wants it levitated to a great height, 
she gives it an upward kick and then withdraws her foot, and the table rises 
and falls true to the laws of gravitation. 

fAt one time during the series of tests in New York City, a man from 
Philadelphia, Mr. Edgar Scott, who was standing in the background, took ad- 
vantage of the darkness and crawled along the floor to the cabinet and attempted 


58 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


During his narration I asked Davis to tell me if this 
astute Italian who had fooled the scientists of the world 
was not suspicious or did not sense that she was being 
checked up in her movements. 

“No,” he replied dryly, “once during the seance she 
asked every one to stand up. Two of the ladies in their 
inexperience proceeded to obey the command. We had 
two spies under our chairs and as we did not want her to 
see them something had to be done immediately, so I 
pretended to have severe cramps in my legs and while the 
interpreter told Eusapia of it Sargent and Kellogg nudged 
the ladies to sit down and the medium then resumed her 
seat.” 

I will not bore the reader with a detailed account of the 
cabinet phenomena at this seance under a subdued light 
but suffice to say that Davis and Kellogg tricked her as 
before and were able to explain every manifestation. 
The whole Miller seance was carried out as planned so 
carefully that Palladino on the way to her hotel afterwards 
told the Columbia student who had acted as interpreter * 
for her that she was well pleased with the evening and 
that the seance had been one of the most successful of 
the series, f 

1 quote by permission from a letter written me by Mr. 
Davis under date of June 22, 1923: 

“Rupert Hughes, in an attack upon Spiritism some time 
ago, said that favorable reports on Palladino constituted a 
vast literature, and he was right. The public libraries 

to grab Eusapia’s foot while she was using it for trick purposes but just as his 
hand touched her foot Eusapia had a spasm of screeching. Professors Jastrow 
and Miller were witnesses of this fact. 

* Palladino wanted her own interpreter, also a personal friend, but that 
obstacle was avoided. Neither was her business manager, Mr. Hereward Car- 
rington, present on this particular occasion. 

fThe full details of this seance were published in the Journal of the Ameri- 
can Society for Psychical Research, Section “B,” August, 1910. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


59 


both in this country and Europe contain many books in 
which it is claimed that it has been ‘scientifically demon- 
strated’ that Eusapia possesses some occult power. 

“Generations for centuries will probably be influenced 
by these books. They are only calculated to create super- 
stition and ignorance and it is a shame that they are per- 
mitted to circulate. Eusapia was one of the world’s 
greatest mountebanks. Her dupes were our foremost men 
of learning — they were not of the rabble. She was the 
greatest mountebank produced by modern Spiritism, and 
she duped more scientists than any other medium. In 
that respect D. D. Home does not compare with her. The 
important lesson in the case is that so-called ‘scientific’ 
testimony is just about worthless. That is an important 
educational fact and a valuable lesson to the general 
public.” 

Mr. Davis is quite right in his view of the seriousness 
of the possible danger and damage to the reading public 
from the effects of the grossly misapplied energy of the 
prominent scientists who have so unqualifiedly endorsed 
Eusapia Palladino as a genuine miracle worker, and the 
hosts of Spiritualistic enthusiasts who have repeated their 
published statements. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle un- 
qualifiedly lauds Home and Palladino as patron saints of his 
psychic religion (?). He accepts as proof the fact that 
these learned scientists met their Waterloo in an attempt 
to fathom the simple tricks of impostors, and like all other 
Spiritualists refuses to accept the positive proof of the 
deception secured by men schooled in the science of magic 
which at times is as seemingly unexplainable as the more 
profound subjects of natural science. 

The reader should bear in mind that Mr. Davis’ sin- 
cerity is just as great as is Sir Arthur’s. Sincerity is Sir 
Arthur’s strong magnet and the reader should attach as 


I 



60 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


much importance to sincerity on the part of an opponent. 
We must also take into consideration the fact that Mr. 
Davis was at one time a medium himself and he has had 
much opportunity for observing the qualifications of sci- 
entists as occult investigators. We must notice too the 
methods of conducting the seances in which such diverse 
results were obtained. Those held with only scientists as 
observers were under the full control of the medium and 
all her conditions were conformed to, but in New York 
it was practically a case of fighting fire with fire. It is 
proverbial that “it takes a rogue to catch a rogue” — just 
so a trickster is more capable of setting traps to detect 
trickery than the grave scientist in his endeavor to solve 
the problem by mathematics or logic. In the successful 
instance the plan of operation had been carefully worked 
out in every detail, each participant was assigned a specific 
work to do and did it. A number of rehearsals were 
held so that each person was familiar with their part. All 
the conditions so strenuously adhered to in previous se- 
ances, were safeguarded and the result was a successful 
exposure. 

When Carrington brought Palladino to this country 
he announced that he did so in the interest of “science.” 
Publicity was not to be ignored though and consequently 
the first seance was given before newspaper men. Wil- 
liam A. Brady (the theatrical man) occupied the seat of 
honor which made it look as though Carrington hoped for 
some theatrical business as a side issue to the seances 
with scientists at a hundred and twenty-five dollars a sit- 
ting. It is also known that Carrington made a contract 
with a popular magazine which gave it an exclusive right 
to publish reports of the seances and naturally Carrington 
was to have received a liberal fee. But Mr. Davis in 1909 
furnished the New York Times with two articles making a 





A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


61 


sensational attack on Palladino whereupon the magazine 
people cancelled their contract with Carrington on the 
ground that Davis had put a “frost” on their plans. As 
a result Carrington threatened the Times with a suit for a 
hundred thousand dollars damage. The threat was 
dropped after Palladino’s complete exposure and her re- 
fusal to go to the Times Building and win the two thou- 
sand dollar prize offered by Rinn. In all the seances con- 
ducted by Carrington the program was the same and the 
phenomena of precisely the same character as in the one 
which resulted in Palladino’s complete exposure. The 
value of Mr. Carrington’s opinion as evidence may be 
judged from excerpts from an article in McClure’s Maga- 
zine for October, 1909. In this article he answers his 
own question “Does Eusapia Deceive Her Investigators?” 
by saying: 

“Well do I know the condition of mind induced by one 
or two seances with Eusapia. All one’s previous experi- 
ence is refuted, and the mind fails to grasp the facts or to 
accept them as real. It is incapable of absorbing them. 
It requires several seances before one is convinced of the 
reality of the phenomena, and of the fact that one’s obser- 
vation is not mistaken. Personally, I had to witness six 
seances before I was irrevocably and finally convinced of 
the reality of the fact. Before that, although I was quite 
unable to explain what I saw by any theory of fraud or 
trickery, and although I was quite certain the facts were 
not due to hallucination, still I could not believe them. I 
felt that there must be a loophole somewhere; and I know 
that my colleagues felt exactly as I did. But at the sixth 
seance when I was controlling the medium myself, in such 
a manner that I was quite sure as to the whereabouts of 
her whole body, and when it was, moreover, light enough 
to see the whole outline of her body clearly, — when, in 



62 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


spite of this, phenomena continued to take place all 
around us in the most bewildering manner and under the 
most perfect test conditions, I felt that there was no more 
to he said; certainty had been achieved; and from the 
sixth seance onward, and forever after, I shall remain as 
certain that these phenomena are facts, and form a part — 
however sporadic — of nature, as I am that I write this 
article.” 

The foregoing shows how vacillating the mind of Mr. 
Carrington was at the time he was conducting the Palla- 
dino seances, and when after a personal contest with the 
medium he stated his conviction he should have known 
he was talking the impossible; that no one man could 
control Palladino beyond the possibility of fraud and at 
the same time detect her false moves. In the same article 
he writes: 

“I may remark just here that this medium has been 
caught in trickery from time to time, and will almost 
invariably resort to it unless she is prevented from doing 
so by the rigidity of the control (that is, the degree of 
certainty obtained in holding her hands and feet). The 
reason for this is that Eusapia, knowing that the produc- 
tion of genuine phenomena will exhaust her nervous 
forces, resorts to this simpler method, if her sitters are 
sufficiently credulous to allow it, in order to save herself 
from the painful after effects of a genuine seance. Nearly 
every investigator has at one time or another discovered 
this fraud, which is petty, and more or less obvious to 
any careful investigator, and consists in the substitution 
of one hand for two, and in the production of phenomena 
with the remaining free hand. If, however, sufficient 
precautions are taken, it is a comparatively easy matter 
to frustrate her attempts at fraud; and when this is done 
so-called genuine phenomena are produced. Many of 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


63 


the phenomena are so incredible that by far the simplest 
explanation is that fraud has been operative in their 
production; but I can say positively (and I believe the 
records will show this) that fraud was quite impossible 
throughout our seances, not only because of the nature 
of our control of the medium, which was rigidly exacting, 
but because of the abundance of light. Any theory based 
upon the supposition that confederates were employed is 
absolutely discounted: first, because the seances were held 
in our own locked rooms in the hotel; and secondly, be- 
cause throughout the seances it was light enough for us 
to see the whole room and its occupants. It is hardly 
necessary to add that we examined the cabinet, the table, 
instruments, and all articles of furniture, both before and 
after each seance.” 

This last seems just as a manager might be expected 
to talk of the merit of his own show. A salesman should 
not decry his wares. 

There is no question but what Palladino was given to 
fraud.* In personal conversations with Hon. Everard 
Feilding, W. W. Baggally, E. J. Dingwall and Hereward 
Carrington, each stated positively that they had caught 
her cheating and that they knew her to be a fraud. They 
claimed that toward the end of her career she lost her 
occult power and at such times as the Spirits failed her she 

* In an interview with Walter Littlefield, a noted journalist, Palladino re- 
vealed three methods by which she was able to employ substitution in regard to 
hands at the table, four in regard to foot substitution, half a dozen methods of 
table levitation, several ways of producing knocks, two ways in which she pro- 
duced the illusion of a current of air coming from her forehead* She told him 
that she was not annoyed when caught practicing tricks, nor did she deny their 
use when caught* She said to him, “All mediums indulge in tricks — all" She 
also told him that she was a good Catholic, went to Mass, made her confession, 
and said she hated to hear people talk about “super-normal,” or “super- 
natural” phenomena. 

The famous “current of air from the forehead” which Mr* Littlefield men- 
tions was simply her breath blown with force and diverted by her under lip. 



64 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


would resort to trickery rather than confess failure. They 
believed her a genuine medium because of the things 
which she did under test conditions which they could not 
explain, their knowledge of fraud being overpowered, ap- 
parently, by a willingness to believe in the impossible 
simply because they were not able to solve the problem. 

If you go to a department store and ask for a well 
advertised bit of merchandise and when you get home you 
find the clerk has substituted “something just as good” 
you either report the clerk to the management or else 
you do not patronize the store again; if you go to a tailor 
and he sells you an “all-wool” suit and you find that most 
of the “wool” grew on cotton plants you pass that store 
by when you are ready to buy another suit; if you catch 
your best friend cheating at cards you refuse to play with 
him again ever and a life-time friendship is broken up. 
But Palladino cheated at Cambridge, she cheated in 
l’Aguelas, and she cheated in New York and yet each 
time that she was caught cheating the Spiritualists upheld 
her, excused her, and forgave her. Truly their logic 
sometimes borders on the humorous. 

F. W. H. Myers wrote in “Borderland” in 1896: 

“These frauds were practiced in and out of the real, or 
alleged, trance and were so skillfully executed that the 
poor woman must have practiced them long and care- 
fully.” 

Palladino is summed up in these few lines. 

My opinion is that Palladino in her crafty prime may 
have possessed the agility and abundant skill in mis- 
direction together with sufficient energy and nerve to 
bamboozle * her scientific and otherwise astute committee- 

* I am informed on good authority that Eusapia threw her legs into the laps 
of her male sitters ! That she placed her head upon their shoulders, and did 
various other things calculated to confuse and muddle men, all of which was 
explained on the theory of “hysteria.” In her younger days Eusapia was a 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


65 


men, but as time demanded its toll she probably lost her 
vim and nerve and became unable to present her “per- 
formances” with the success that attended her earlier 
demonstrations. 

My old friend, John William Sargent, who died on 
September 24, 1920, was one of the committee which 
finally dethroned Palladino, and I believe it no more than 
just that the last word of this chapter should be said by 
him. 

“Eusapia Palladino is dead and I have little doubt that 
she departed hence without forgiving me for the part I 
took in spoiling her business in America by assisting in 
the exposure of her little bag of tricks. It is an open 
question, however, whether the exposure of her trickery, 
or in fact of any of the class of sensation mongers to 
which she belonged, ever turned a soul from belief in 
Spiritism; some of the leading newspapers, in commenting 
on her death, show that in spite of the complete exposure 
of her methods, there still remains in the minds of many 
intelligent people the conviction that she was far from 
an impostor. I cannot understand how any reasonable 
person could see in this woman anything more than a 
fairly clever charlatan, whose success was due more to 
the credulity of her audiences than the skill of her per- 
formances. What did all her exposures amount to? 
Those who believed have continued to believe, and 
in spite of the old saw, ‘Truth is mighty and must pre- 
vail,’ the name of Eusapia Palladino will be on the lips of 
men long, long after her exposers are forgotten dust.” 

buxom woman and it is not strange that a lot of old scientists were badly 
flabbergasted by such conduct. 



CHAPTER V 


ANN O’DELIA DISS DEBAR 

The coming and going of Ann O’Delia Diss Debar are 
mysteries for there is no record of her birth and no trace 
of her death, but the “in between time” furnished 
material enough for an entire book rather than a single 
chapter, and gave her sufficient opportunity to have it said 
of her that she was “one of the most extraordinary fake 
mediums and mystery swindlers the world has ever 
known.” Some even have classed her among the ten 
most prominent and dangerous female criminals of the 
world, and her repertoire is claimed to have run the full 
gamut from petty confidence games to elaborately con- 
trived schemes aimed at the magnates of Wall Street. 
According to report she did not hesitate to victimize the 
innocent and the mentally unsound and left behind her a 
trail of sorrow, depleted pocket-books, and impaired 
morals that has seldom been equaled. Like many master 
criminals she escaped punishment for a time but in the 
end fell into the toils of the law and served time both here 
and in England. The marvellous tact with which she de- 
voted her great powers to the purposes of self aggrandize- 
ment and profit is without parallel, and for cunning 
knavery, Cagliostro, by comparison, seems to have been 
an amateur. It is alleged that her crimes ranged from 
the smallest to the largest with morals as low as one can 
imagine in a human being while, worst of all, she flaunted 
this viciousness openly, making no effort whatever to cloak 
her degeneracy. 


66 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


67 


Nevertheless her name stands among the half score or 
more in the front ranks of the history of Spiritualism and 
with Daniel Dunglas Home shares the palm for the suc- 
cessful manipulation of big schemes. It was not unusual 
for her to make deals that ran into the hundreds of thou- 
sands of dollars and though the two were early in the 
mediumistic field, I believe that to this day they have 
had no peer in this respect. Possibly all other mediums 
combined could not have aggregated the amount of money 
obtained by these two. 

Whether Home outbids Diss Debar for preeminence as 
to gain it is hard to say but it is certain that he “could 
not hold a candle” to her versatility. Both appear to have 
had the advantage of being scholastic, and well versed in 
historic lore and the classics, which gave them great pres- 
tige with cultured people, opening the doors to the social 
life of the “upper-ten,” and bringing within their reach 
people of wealth as well as scholars and scientists, all of 
whom were apparently perfectly willing to be deceived, 
and to unwittingly aid in making the careers of these 
two adventurers “howling successes” up to the time of 
their undoing in the courts. 

Unlike Home, who never in all the vicissitudes of his 
career denied his personality, Diss Debar as frequently as 
she changed her base of operations seems to have changed 
her name and her ancestry. Once in the heyday of her 
career she gave a series of interviews claiming to he the 
daughter of King Louis I of Bavaria and Lola Montez, a 
Spanish-Irish dancer who had a spectacular and adven- 
turous career which covered Europe in its course, reached 
to the Russian Court and later America. It is supposed 
that Diss Debar was the daughter of a political refugee 
by the name of Salomen who settled in Kentucky and 
that she was born in 1849 although there is no documen- 



68 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


tary proof of it. According to the story she was named 
Editha and as she grew up became known as a wayward 
child bent on doing what she should not and perfectly 
callous to all restraining influence of parental affection. 
“At times her waywardness took such extraordinary turns 
that her parents thought she was not entirely sane and 
sought the advice of a doctor, who said she was really a 
sort of victim to an unholy passion, hut that she would 
grow out of her failing as she grew older,” a prophecy 
which never came true. 

When Editha Salomen became of age she left home and 
for several years her father lost all track of her. Later, to 
his great astonishment, he discovered her settled in Balti- 
more, moving among the best of society, and posing as a 
member of European aristocracy. As the “Countess 
Landsfeldt and Baroness Rosenthal” of the peerage of 
Bavaria she availed herself of all the privileges which 
members of nobility enjoyed in the Republic, was courted 
by American youth and found American women “only 
too delighted to he led by a Countess.” 

Where the Kentucky girl with her peculiar tempera- 
ment and characteristics could possibly have secured the 
education and knowledge which she displayed through all 
her exploits I am at a loss to understand. She must have 
inherited a liberal share of shrewdness, together with a 
fancy for reading ancient history, and at an early age 
realized that although not handsome she possessed some 
charm of personality which attracted attention and which 
enabled her to pose successfully as a member of the 
nobility. 

It is said that in this role Editha had no difficulty in 
raising funds. It was easy to encourage a prosperous 
young man into a love trap and make him believe she 
would soon marry him. “Then one day she would find 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


69 


that she had to pay a large sum of money to meet a neces- 
sary obligation, that her careless bankers in Bavaria had 
failed to remit a few hundred thousand dollars, on ac- 
count of which she most reluctantly accepted temporary 
relief from the rich suitor. She took as much as she 
dared and thereafter cut him.” In this way she managed 
to cheat the youth of Baltimore out of about a quarter of 
a million dollars. She gave herself up to luxury and 
extravagance; took freely to smoking cigarettes impreg- 
nated with opium and was soon landed in Bellevue Hos- 
pital suffering from “acute nervous exhaustion.” 

One day, just as she was nearly cured, she sprang out 
of bed, stabbed an attendant and attempted to kill her 
doctor, and several persons were seriously wounded before 
she was secured. As a result she was sent to the asylum 
for the insane on Ward’s Island, where she was detained 
for a year, during which time she showed no traces of 
insanity and it was concluded that her attempt at murder 
was premeditated ; but as she had been committed as insane 
with no evidence to controvert it the law was powerless 
and she was released. 

Her next venture was in the field of hypnotism, where 
she was an adept, but now known as Mrs. Messant and a 
widow, for though a young doctor, either through fear 
or fondness, had married her soon after her discharge from 
Ward’s Island, he had survived the marriage less than a 
year. As “one can always find fools if one really looks 
for them” she had no difficulty in surrounding herself 
with dupes but as the widow of an obscure doctor was not 
persona grata in the circles of high society where the 
highest paying fools are to be found she set to work to 
find an entree. Her search was not for long. Soon she 
discovered a certain General Diss Debar; a man without 
money or “mind of his own” but he filled her need, easily 



70 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


yielded to her cajoleries and presently Editha Salomen, 
Countess Landsfeldt, Baroness Rosenthal, Messant became 
Ann O’Delia Diss Debar. As the wife of a general, so- 
ciety smiled on her again and she lived in comfort. The 
rich courted “hypnotism and general humbug and the 
wily woman was equal to the requirement.” As time 
went on, however, she began to squander the money that 
flowed into her coffers. A couple of children were born 
to her. People began to tire of hypnotism, her income 
waned, and it became necessary for her to set her wits to 
work and cast her net for a fresh victim. 

This proved to be Luther R. Marsh, a brilliant and 
wealthy lawyer of New York City. Mr. Marsh was an 
ideal subject for the hypnotizer’s attention. Though a 
learned lawyer he was not free from superstition and his 
wife had died but a short time before he was discovered 
by Diss Debar. At an early opportunity she “received” 
messages from his spirit wife which the distinguished 
member of the bar accepted as genuine so gratefully and 
without question that the woman saw at once that she 
had opened up a new field with more and greater possi- 
bilities than she had ever worked before; she realized that 
she had gifts which fitted her to be a first class Spiritual- 
istic medium. Nor was her judgment in error. The 
credulous lawyer proved an exceedingly easy mark. Very 
quickly she won his full confidence and it was not long 
before he invited her to share his hospitality at 166 
Madison Avenue. There was no delay in her acceptance. 
With the owners’ full consent the home was transformed 
into a Spiritualistic Temple in which Ann O’Delia Diss 
Debar was the high priestess. Soon it was evident that 
there were spirits in profusion and the new medium was 
able to produce any type of phenomena desired, even to 
spirit painting. The venture was a profound success and 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


71 


a flourishing business was developed with an upper-ten 
clientele in which Mr. Marsh became the chief and real 
victim. 

Not only was Mr. Marsh mourning his wife but he had 
aJ so lost a little daughter but a short time before and so 
when “Eva’s” supposed spirit suggested to him that he 
make over his property at 166 Madison Avenue to Diss 
Debar the father was ready for the sacrifice.* The deeds 
were drawn and the transfer made but the medium was 
prevented from enjoying her booty by legal proceedings 
which vigilant relatives of Marsh instituted based on his 
mental condition. 

Both Ann O’Delia Diss Debar and her husband, General 
Diss Debar, were arrested and held on bail for trial, f As 
not infrequently happens in such cases the litigation was 
long drawn out and much astonishing evidence produced. f 
When placed on the witness stand her first testimony 
demonstrated her character. A man by the name of 
Salomen had testified that he was her brother. She denied 
that he was and declared that he was a vile wretch who 
had come to her to borrow money. She admitted to an 
inspector afterwards that the man was her brother but 
that he would not dare go on the stand against her for 

* See Appendix D. 

f I have a full record of the proceedings in my reference file. 

% In order to prove that fraud and trickery were the tools which had been 
used in fleecing the unwary, magicians were induced to appear in evidence, and 
on May 27, 1888, Alexander Hermann gave a public Demonstration at the 
Academy of Music in New York City for the purpose of duplicating the 
phenomena produced by Diss Debar and as an aid to the New York Pi ess 
Club Fund. 

The audience included many prominent people and notables including Col. 
Cockerell; Edward S. Stokes, of the Hoffman House; Joseph Howard; District 
Attorney Fellows; Ex-Judge Donohue; Lawyer Neweombe; Judge Hilton; 
Luther R . Marsh; and “Dr.” Lawrence, one of the attaches of the Diss Debar 
Temple. 

Professor Hermann read spirit messages, did table tipping, cabinet, light 
seance, and produced spook pictures, finishing with a dark seance of ghostly 
music and materializations. 



72 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


she knew something about him that would blast him for- 
ever and would not hesitate for a second to tell it if she 
needed to. 

Another indication of her character is furnished by the 
story that in choosing between two lawyers to represent 
her in court she not only inquired into their legal ability, 
but desired to know about their age and looks as well, 
finally deciding upon the younger and better looking. 

She testified that all the trouble had been caused by 
Mr. Marsh giving her his house and in answer to a ques- 
tion as to why she did not get money from him instead of 
real estate she replied that she had tried to but that he 
was very mean with his cash. The last time she had gone 
to him for money he had refused it, offering her instead 
a deed of his property in Newport. This she had refused 
fearing it would get her into more trouble. 

During the early part of the trial Diss Debar conceived 
the idea of consulting the spirit world in regard to her 
own course of action and soon after, on “the advice of 
Cicero and his colleagues in council of ten” she returned 
the deeds of the Madison Avenue property to Mr. Marsh. 

One of the surprises of the trial was the calling by the 
prosecuting attorney of a professional illusionist, mes- 
merist, and conjuror, Carl Hertz, as a witness to prove 
by duplication that the tricks practiced on the unsuspect- 
ing Marsh by Diss Debar were simply applications of the 
ordinary laws of physics. This he succeeded in doing to 
the satisfaction of the court. 

While Hertz was exhibiting “spirit message” reading 
on the stand Diss Debar did everything in her power to 
embarrass him but without success as he met every condi- 
tion she suggested including some under which Diss 
Debar herself would have failed to “manifest.” Mrs. 
Hertz had been her husband’s assistant in reading the 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


73 


billets. Diss Debar proposed through her lawyer that 
she be allowed to take her place. Hertz readily consented. 
The Judge examined a fresh piece of paper and Hertz 
passed it to Diss Debar who deliberately tore it in 
two pieces and handing one of them back said to Hertz: 

“I always mark mine; now let me see you do the trick 
with one of these pieces.” 

Hertz availed himself of the regular mediumistic subter- 
fuge “unfavorable conditions” explaining that it was only 
a trick and being exhibited as such. To this Diss Debar 
retorted : 

“I rest my honor upon its all being done by Spiritual 
power when I do it.” 

At this the court ordered her from the stand refusing to 
allow discussion along such lines. Later in the trial Hertz 
was recalled to the stand by Diss Debar’s counsel and 
asked if he could produce the trick with Mr. Marsh as an 
assistant. He replied that he “could and would.” From 
a newspaper account * we learn that excitement in the 
courtroom ran high while he proceeded with the trick. 
Diss Debar told Marsh to “mark the tablet.” 

The conditions were not favorable to the perform- 
ance of a sleight-of-hand trick. Mr. Marsh and Mr. Hertz 
were less than two feet apart and people crowded around 
so close that the magician scarcely had room to move, and 
yet he succeeded completely in deceiving Mr. Marsh. 
When Hertz handed the tablet to Mr. Marsh he calmly 
said: 

“If you wish to tear a corner off the tablet so as to 
identify it, I have no objections.” 

Mr. Marsh tore the corner off the tablet, nevertheless 
he was completely tricked, and he so admitted to the 
court. 

* New York Times, April 21, 18&8, 



74 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Nothing could show more clearly the methods used by 
mediums than the following account, written by Hertz 
himself, of the means which he used in the demonstration 
described above. The letter was in response to one of 
mine in which I asked him to let me know the method 
he used as I thought it should be put in this record. 

8 Hyde Park Mansions, 

London, N. W. 

July 16, 1923. 

Dear Houdini: 

I am in receipt of yours, with reference to the manner 
in which I manipulated the paper to fool Mme. Diss 
Debar. I worked it as follows: When she was in the 
witness box, I showed the jury and Mrs. Diss Debar a half 
sheet of plain white note paper with nothing on it. I 
then told her to examine it and fold it four times (I had 
a duplicate piece with a communication written on it 
palmed in my hand), when she handed it back to me, I 
quickly made the changes, and giving her the piece with 
the writing on it I told her to hold it against my forehead. 
She then stopped me and said: “ one moment please, 

whenever I do this trick, I let them mark the paper,” and 
suiting the action to the word, she took the paper, and 
without opening it again, she tore a corner off the blank 
piece, but, as it was already changed it made no difference. 

You will see, I took a big chance, hut it came off. I 
had an idea she would do this, so I actually changed the 
papers before I should have done so in the ordinary way, 
and she was flabbergasted when she opened the paper 
and found a communication written upon it, and on the 
same piece of paper which she had marked. 

The writing pad trick which I did in the witness box 
with Luther R. Marsh, I did as follows: — 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


75 


The trick, if you remember, was to show a pad of about 
a hundred sheets of paper unwritten upon, and to wrap 
the pad up in a newspaper, and to allow Marsh to hold 
one end while she held the other. Then the sound of 
writing was heard as if some one was writing on the paper, 
and when the newspaper was opened every sheet in the 
pad was written upon. 

I had two pads alike, one I had concealed under my waist- 
coat, and the other I gave to Marsh to examine; as I pro- 
ceded to wrap the pad up, under cover of the newspaper, I 
changed them, quickly drawing the pad from my waist- 
coast and leaving the other one in its place. 

I then proceeded to wrap the pad up when Diss Debar 
shouted from her seat in the Court Room ‘Don’t let him 
fool you, mark it!’ hut as it was already changed, it did 
not matter so I let them tear a corner off. 

I then let him hold one end, while I held the other, and 
amidst a great silence the sound of writing was heard, as 
if a pen was rapidly going over the paper, and I then told 
him to open the newspaper and look at the pad, when he 
found every sheet written upon. 

I then showed the Court how I produced the sound of 
writing, by having the nail of my forefinger split, and 
simply scratching the newspaper underneath while I held 
it. 

Kind regards to self and wife from both of us. 

Yours sincerely, 

(Signed) Carl Hertz 

Regardless of Carl Hertz’s testimony and demonstra- 
tion Mr. Marsh’s belief in the genuineness of Spiritualistic 
phenomena was unshaken and remained so until the time 
of his death. Not only the extent of this belief and his 



76 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


mental condition, but his confidence in Diss Debar as well, 
are revealed in the following excerpt from the New York 
Times’s account of the trial. 

“A short communication from St. Paul was read by 
Mr. Howe (the Prosecuting Attorney) to the Court, and 
Mr. Marsh read a very long one from St. Peter. It re- 
quired fifteen minutes and a half to read this communica- 
tion, and Mr. Marsh said it had come in the tablet written 
in two minutes. Judge Cross and Luther Colby were in 
his study when it came. He knew that the tablet was 
blank before he and Mme. Diss Debar held it together in 
their hands. 

“Mr. Howe asked Mr. Marsh if he really believed the 
communication was from St. Peter, the apostle, and Mr. 
Marsh replied that he knew it was. 

“ ‘Then you still believe in it!’ exclaimed Mr. Howe. 

“ ‘I do,’ was the firm reply, and the Spiritualistic ele- 
ment applauded vigorously. Mme. Diss Debar and Mr. 
Marsh both seemed pleased with this demonstration which 
the Court, however, stopped summarily.” 

Twelve ballots were taken by the jury before an agree- 
ment was reached due to the fact that one juror, evidently 
in sympathy with the accused, obstinately held out for 
acquittal. His reasons were as little logical as most 
Spiritualistic arguments and had no connection with the 
evidence. In fact the other jurors said that when they 
tried to talk evidence to him “he wouldn’t have it, but 
hung to one line of thought, namely, that he believed 
Mrs. Diss Debar to be the daughter of Lola Montez and 
that a woman born out of wedlock was just as much en- 
titled to consideration as one who was born in wed- 
lock, and as Mrs. Ann O’Delia Diss Debar claimed 
all the honors of illegitimacy, he was on her side for 
keeps.” 



ANN O'DELIA DISS DEBAR 





A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


77 


Finally after a long wrangle and with the prospect of 
being locked in a jury room over Sunday, an arrange- 
ment was reached whereby a verdict of guilty was to be 
brought in but with a recommendation for clemency. 
This was done and Diss Debar and her husband were 
sent to Blackwell’s Island for six months.* 

When she was released she disappeared from America 
only to reappear after a little in London, England, where 
under the names of Laura and Theodore Jackson she 
and her husband soon found themselves in trouble for 
starting an exceptionally immoral cult f which they 
called a “Theocratic Unity.” J She was sentenced in De- 
cember, 1901, to seven years of penal servitude in Ayles- 
bury Prison. Even here her persuasive powers found a 
use for it is said that she gained favor because of the mar- 
vellous influence which she had over the refractory ele- 
ment which the officers in charge had difficulty in keeping 
in subjection. At any rate she was released after serving 

*Neno York World, June 18, 1888, 

j- When the London press was full of sensational stories following the arrest 
of Laura and Theodore Jackson, Carl Hertz, on picking up his paper one morn- 
ing, was astonished to recognize the woman who had lured young girls into 
joining her immoral cult as Ann O’Delia Diss Debar, with whom he had meas- 
ured swords at the Marsh trial. He got in touch with Scotland Yard imme- 
diately and gave it all the information he had regarding Diss Debar’s connection 
with fraud activities. 

% ‘‘Miss Croisdale, who was one of the victims, testified that she had been 
initiated into the ‘Theocratic Unity,’ the sect which the Jacksons claimed to 
head, with a rope fastened about her; passes were made over her, she said, with 
a lamp, water and a saw: Jackson told her that he was Christ re-incarnated. 
Miss Croisdale then described the oath in which she swore she would allow no 
one else to hypnotize her and she would keep all the secrets under the penalty 
of ‘submitting myself to a deadly and hostile current of will set in motion by 
the Chief of the order, with which I would be slain or paralyzed without visible 
weapons, as if blasted by lightning.’ Mrs. Jackson (or Diss Debar) looked as 
if she wished to carry out the threat on the spot. Miss Croisdale further 
testified that Theodore had outraged her in his wife’s presence. Jackson 
declared he was physically incapable and demanded a doctor’s examination to 
prove his statement.” — Dispatch from the London Times in the New York Sun, 
October 11, 1901. 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


five years, “having obtained the maximum reduction of 
sentence for good behavior.” * 

Out in the world again she ventured into vaudeville and 
afterwards burlesque but in these roles she was a complete 
failure. Later she came hack to America and was next 
heard of in Chicago as Vera Ava. She succeeded in mar- 
rying a wealthy man there hut before long was in more 
difficulties in connection with the pursuit of spookery and 
sentenced to the Joliet Penitentiary for two years. f Once 
more she appeared — in New Orleans as the Baroness 
Rosenthal — then in 1909 this creature, who for more than 
a quarter of a century had been swaying men of promi- 
nence and women of society, dropped out of sight and 
for the last fifteen years nothing has been known about 
her 4 

In mothering this immoral woman, Spiritualism is 
guilty of the grossest misconduct and proves conclusively 
that she does not protect her own from the wiles and im- 
morality of mediums even though they are found guilty 
of base criminality by the courts. Were I permitted to go 
into detail I could tell tales of Diss Debar that would 
shock even the worst roue of the Montmartre. Suffice to 
say that her crimes were not so much crimes of gain 
as they were insults to the decency and morality of the 
community. 

Ann O’Delia Diss Debar’s reputation § was such that she 
will go down in history as one of the great criminals. 
She was no credit to Spiritualism; she was no credit to 
any people, she was no credit to any country — she was 
one of these moral misfits which every once in awhile seem 
to find their way into the world. Better far had she died 
at birth than to have lived and spread the evil she did. 

* Chicago Daily Tribune , August 14, 1906. 

f New York Sun, October 11, 1901. 

t If alive she is now (1924) seventy-five years old. 

§ See Appendix E for Police Record. 



CHAPTER VI 


DR. SLADE AND HIS SPIRIT SLATES 

Slate writing was an especially fortunate “find” for 
mediums. Its results were obtained in full light and the 
whole thing seemed so simple and direct that apparently 
there was nothing to investigate and comparatively speak- 
ing there were no blank seances. Such success led to 
carelessness and exposures followed, so numerous and 
complete that it is quite unnecessary to list them all here.* 
Every once in a while though some medium still takes a 
chance when opportunity offers and gives a test to espe- 
cially gullible sitters, but to-day no medium with any 
pretentions to “class” would think of anything so “com- 
mon” as slate writing in its old form. Spirit slates are 
now listed in the catalogues of houses dealing in conjuring 
apparatus and the fraud mediums who formerly made use 
of them are employing the safer and easier swindles of 
automatic writing, trance or trumpet messages, and the 
“ouija board.” 

The infinite grafting possibilities of the Spirit slates 
seem to have been overlooked until adopted and put into 
usable form by Dr. Henry Slade, f a man who had ac- 

* If the reader cares to look the matter up I would refer him to Podmore’s 
“Modern Spiritualism,” Vol. II, pages 204 and 221; also to the story of Dr. 
Slade in the same volume; to the proceedings of the American S. P. R., Vol. 
II, part I, pages 17, 36-59; to Abbot’s, “Behind the Scenes with Mediums,” 
pages 114 to 192; to “Revelations of a Spirit Medium,” page 121-157; to “Bottom 
Facts,” pages 143-159; to the Report of the Seybert Commission; “Spirit Slate 
Writing,” by Wm. E. Robinson, and newspaper exposures without number. 

f According to “The Medium and Daybreak,” October 6, 1876, Slade “dis- 
covered” the phenomena of slate-writing while experimenting at the private 
house of Mr. Gardiner Knapp, New Albany, Indiana, where Slade was visiting. 

79 



80 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


quired an unenviable reputation in New York City, but it is 
extremely doubtful if the present generation would have 
known anything about Dr. Slade had the perpetuation of 
his name been left to the quality of his mediumship, for he 
was only one of a large number of conjuring fakirs who 
bamboozled the credulous of his day. However, he was 
brought into the limelight on two notable occasions : first by 
being exposed and criminally prosecuted in London; and 
second when poor old Professor Zollner, a noted German 
astronomer and physicist, “fell” for his simple conjuring 
and fell so hard that he made Slade the hero of his great 
(?) work, “Transcendental Physics.” 

Like D. D. Home, and many others, after making a 
reputation in America, Slade jumped over to London, for 
England’s arms seem ever open for the reception of 
mediums who have made good here and if a medium 
escapes the toils of American investigators he has little to 
fear from willing believers on the other side of the Atlan- 
tic, though as a matter of fact several were sent to jad 
there. Slade reached England in July, 1876, and began 
to hold sittings at once, and was soon “cleaning up” in 
fine shape. The late John Nevil Maskelyne, the great 
English magician, told me that: 

“Crowds of people rushed to witness the phenomena 
(?) paying one guinea each for a sitting lasting but a few 
minutes. You would think they were giving gold guineas 
away. The ‘Doctor’ must have netted some hundreds of 
pounds weekly which in those days was rated a high sum 
of money for an individual ‘performer.’ ” 

Then, just as things were going so nicely for Slade 
there came a sudden crash, for which two men were 
responsible; Professor Ray Lankester (now Sir Ray Lan- 
kester) and Dr. Horatio Donkin (now Sir Horatio Don- 
kin). These men applied certain effective methods of 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


81 


scrutiny to Slade’s exhibitions which resulted in his arrest. 
The trial created a hig sensation, not only in Spiritual 
circles, hut throughout the civilized world, and the Bow 
Street Court was the most popular show in London for 
several days; the “top-liner” being J. N. Maskelyne, the 
magician, who performed all of Slade’s tricks in the wit- 
ness box. 

Slade was convicted and sentenced to three months at 
hard labor. An appeal was taken and the decision quashed 
on account of a flaw in the indictment. While Sir Lan- 
kester was procuring new summonses for Slade and his 
manager, Simmons, they both skipped across the channel 
into France, thus closing the doors of England against 
Slade for all time as he never dared to set foot on her un- 
friendly shores again. He made ready for a Paris per- 
formance hut a friend of Sir Lankester’s sent an account 
of the court proceedings to the Paris press so the French 
people had the whole story before Slade was able to begin. 

While touring Europe in 1920 I had the pleasure of 
meeting Sir Ray Lankester and hearing from him an ac- 
count of Dr. Slade’s undoing. Both he and Donkin were 
physicians. They had been laying their plans to expose 
two other mediums, Herne and Williams, hut Slade’s un- 
expected arrival in London changed these plans and in- 
stead they plotted the seance which proved to he Slade’s 
downfall. Donkin was away from London at the time hut 
Sir Lankester wired him and while waiting for his return 
attended one of Slade’s seances. He pretended to Slade 
that he came to see if the Spirits would write a message on 
the slates if he held them himself. Slade assured him 
that they would and arrangements were made for a second 
sitting. Before Sir Lankester left Slade asked him if he 
had been in communication with any departed relatives. 

“No, hut I have an Uncle John,” Sir Lankester replied. 



82 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Consequently at the second sitting the following mes- 
sage was received: 

“I am glad to see you here again. — John.” 

“But have you an Uncle John?” I asked. 

“No, Houdini,” he replied smiling, “that is why every- 
one laughed in the courtroom at the time of the trial. 
You see, Slade thought I was a firm believer, and I al- 
lowed him to distract my attention. He said to me ‘You 
have a great deal of mediumistic power about you. I see 
them over you behind your head.’ ” 

As he said this Sir Lankester raised his head with seem- 
ing credulity acting the part splendidly. 

“What made you suspect Slade?” I asked him. 

“At the first seance I noticed the tendons move on 
Slade’s wrist as he held his hand outstretched under the 
table,” Sir Lankester replied, “and while making a num- 
ber of suspicious moves he scratched the slates a number 
of times with his finger nail to simulate the noise made by 
a slate pencil when writing on a slate.” 

On the return of Sir Donkin it was arranged that he 
and Sir Lankester should attend a seance together and 
that Sir Donkin was to watch for the “suspicious move” 
and when he saw it signal Sir Lankester. Everything 
worked as planned. On receiving the agreed signal from 
Donkin, Lankester seized the slate containing the finished 
message proving that a skillful exchange of slates had been 
made by Slade and this was the real evidence which caused 
the downfall of Henry Slade in England. 

Blocked in Paris from working his tricks because of the 
publication of an account of his exposure in England 
Slade seems to have gone to Germany for it was during 
the next year, 1877, that he so successfully deluded Pro- 
fessor Zollner. “Zollner” is one of the names on which 
Spiritualistic enthusiasts bank most heavily for proof of 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


83 


their claims. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to this day 
quotes Zollner as indisputable authority. Nevertheless 
Zollner is discredited by Mr. George S. Fullerton, Secre- 
tary of the Seybert Commission. While in Germany Mr. 
Fullerton made a special business of investigating the 
value of this Zollner endorsement, and at the time all of 
the men who participated in the Slade investigation were 
alive with the exception of Zollner himself. Mr. Fuller- 
ton in the summary of his report to the Commission said: 
“Thus it would appear that of the four eminent men 
whose names have made famous the investigation, there 
is reason to believe one, Zollner, was of unsound mind at 
the time, and anxious for experimental verification of an 
already accepted hypothesis; another, Fechner, was par- 
tially blind and believed because of Zollner’s observation; 
a third, Scheibner, was also afflicted with defective vision 
and not entirely satisfied in his own mind with the phe- 
nomena; and a fourth, Weber, was advanced in age, and 
did not even recognize the disabilities of his associates. 
None of the men named had any previous experience or 
knowledge of the possibilities of deception.” 

The Seybert Commission, in 1884, seems to have made 
the first systematic, organized effort to fathom the so- 
called phenomena of Spiritualism, and this Commission 
sent for Slade, who was then operating in New York, and 
had him give a number of seances under their observa- 
tion, but in spite of the fact that Slade gave the Commis- 
sion a personal letter thanking them for their courtesies 
and expressing his willingness to sit with them again, the 
Commission considered his work fraudulent throughout. 

At a very early stage of the sittings, the Commission 
noticed two kinds of communications. Those in answer 
to questions were slovenly written, often illegible, while 
those which came as voluntary contributions from the 



84 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Spirits, were more carefully written, even to punctuation. 
It was very evident that this writing on the slates had been 
prepared previous to the sitting, while that written under 
the restraint of observation was the crude scrawl, abrupt 
in composition, and often almost or quite illegible. It 
was evident that where the nicely written communica- 
tions were used an exchange of slates had been effected, 
whereas the other writing was the result of such skill as 
could he brought to bear without detection under the 
unfavorable conditions. It was also noticed that all of 
the long messages most suspiciously resembled the hand- 
writing of the medium. Every test to which Slade sub- 
mitted proved to he transparent to the Commission and 
some of his efforts to mystify it were referred to as: 
“Several little tricks which he imputed to Spiritual 
agency, hut which were almost puerile in the simplicity 
of their legerdemain, and which have been repeated with 
perfect success by one of our number.” 

After all the slate-writing mediums who came in an- 
swer to an advertisement broadcasted by the Seyhert 
Commission had been examined by it, the acting Chairman 
of the Commission, Mr. Horace Howard Furness, invited 
the late Harry Kellar to exhibit his slate-writing skill be- 
fore it, not with any claim to supernatural phenomena hut 
as a magician openly admitting his purpose to baffle by 
purely natural means. Mr. Kellar submitted to a series of 
tests far more complicated and difficult of execution than 
any produced by Slade or any other medium ; nevertheless 
the Commission was unable to detect his methods and ad- 
mitted itself completely baffled. 

Mr. Kellar told me that when Mr. Furness, and Cole- 
man Sellers, another member of the Commission who 
was himself an amateur entertainer, applied to him for 
an exhibition of his skill as a slate-writer they expected 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


85 


him to do the stock tricks of Slade. But someone tipped 
Kellar off that Sellers had told the members of the Com- 
mission what Kellar was to do and his probable method 
of doing it and for them to watch out for his modus 
operandi. So, not to be “caught napping,” Kellar, like 
the skillful mystifier that he was, determined to out-do Slade 
and heat Sellers. As he told me about it he laughed 
heartily, saying: 

“If you could have seen Mr. Sellers’ face at the time 
of the unfolding of the mystery, it would have done your 
heart good.” 

When Kellar arrived for the demonstration he insisted 
that the Commission furnish its own slates, so a hoy was 
sent out who brought back about a dozen of various kinds. 
Then all sat down around the table with hands resting, 
palm down, on its top. The Commission opened the 
sitting by writing questions on the slates. Kellar held 
them under the table with the thumb on top and when he 
withdrew them in a few moments they had answers to 
the questions written in a clear round hand. The ques- 
tions gradually became longer and longer, but the replies 
kept pace with them, sometimes covering a whole side 
of the slate. Although the slates were all different and 
could not possibly he mistaken for one another, the Com- 
mission began to put identifying marks on them. Once 
no pencil was put on the top of the slate hut the reply 
came just the same. This fact was commented upon and 
Kellar replied: 

“Oh, my Spirits can write without pencils,” a statement 
which puzzled the members of the Commission all the 
more. 

Finally the magician asked them to write a question on 
a slate- and cover it with another, placing the pencil be- 
tween the two. Even this did not bother the “Spirits,” 



86 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


for when the slates were returned, both sides were found 
covered wtih writing. 

The following extract from the Preliminary Report of 
the Seybert Commission, originally published in 1887, 
describes this performance of Harry Kellar before mem- 
bers of the Commission and shows the impression which 
it made on them. 

“An eminent professional juggler performed, in the 
presence of three of our Commission, some independent 
slate-writing far more remarkable than any of which we 
have witnessed with mediums. In broad daylight, a slate 
perfectly clean on both sides, was, with a small fragment 
of slate pencil, held under a leaf of a small, ordinary 
table, around which we were seated; the fingers of the 
juggler’s hand pressed the slate tight against the under- 
side of the leaf, while the thumb completed the pressure 
and remained in full view clasping the leaf of the table. 
Our eyes never for the fraction of a second lost sight of 
that thumb; it never moved; and yet in a few minutes the 
slate was produced, covered with writing. Messages were 
there, and still are there, for we preserved the slate, 
written in French, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, 
Gujorati, and ending with ‘ich bin ein Geist, und lieb , 
mein Lagerbier * For one of our number the juggler 
subsequently repeated the trick and revealed its every 
detail.” 

The method which Kellar used, and which he described 
to me, was this. With the consent of the owner of the 
hotel, whom he agreed to pay for any damage, he had a 
small trap made in the floor of the room, about as large 
as a hot air register, with the necessary means of opening 
and closing it. A plush rug with rectangular designs was 
placed over this trap, and one of the designs, which was 
just the size of the trap, was cut out with a razor, these 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


87 


cuts being imperceptible. The piece of rug was glued 
firmly to the top of the trap. In addition to these prep- 
arations, Kellar bought a specimen of every variety of 
slate to be found in the downtown section of Philadelphia. 

When the time for the “seance” arrived, Barney, 
Kellar’s clever young assistant, was seated on a platform 
in the room underneath the trap with the assortment ol 
slates by his side. As soon as the Comjnission was seated 
around the table he opened the trap and could then hear 
all that was said in the room above. When the exhibition 
commenced he simply took the slate Kellar put under 
the table leaf, selected one from his assortment to match 
it, wrote on it the answer, and then slipped it under 
Kellar’s fingers. In the case of a marked slate he used 
that instead of a duplicate. Of course it was perfectly 
easy for Kellar to do his part without removing his thumb 
from the top of the table. 

“A fake, pure and simple, you will say,” Kellar re- 
marked to me, and then added, “but that’s what all 
Spiritualistic manifestations are.” 

In point of time John W. Truesdell was probably the 
first exposer of Slade as he investigated him as early as 
1872, but the results of his investigation were not made 
public until he published his book, “Bottom Facts,” in 
1883. In this book he tells of setting a trap for Slade 
and proving that he substituted slates. 

As Sam Johnson of Rome, N. Y., Truesdell arranged 
for a seance with Slade. Knowing that his overcoat 
would be searched, he left it hanging on the hall rack with 
an unsealed letter in the pocket and while waiting in the 
Spirit room he made the most of his opportunity to look 
around. Under the sideboard he found a slate with a 
message written on the lower side which read: 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“We are happy to meet you in this atmosphere of Spirit 
research. You are now summoned by many anxious 
friends in the Spirit life, who desire to communicate with 
you, but who cannot until they learn more of the laws 
which govern their actions. If you will come here often, 
your Spirit friends will soon be able to identify themselves 
and to communicate with you as on earth life. 

“Allie.” 

In a bold hand Truesdale added: 

“Henry, look out for this fellow. He is up to snuff. 

“Alcinda.” 

This was the name of Slade’s deceased wife, a fact 
which Truesdell happened to know. He replaced the 
slate as he had found it. Slade presently appeared and 
the seance began with the general phenomena of moving 
chairs, etc., preceding the slate- writing. When the name 
“Mary Johnson” appeared plainly written on the slate 
Slade said it was Truesdell’s sister. Upon being told 
that this was incorrect, Slade, pretending to change the 
light, drew the table over by the sideboard. As usual he 
lost control of the slate, letting it fall to the floor, and as 
he stooped over to pick it up took the prepared one 
instead. When he read the two messages he became livid 
with rage and turning to Truesdell demanded to know 
what it meant and who had been meddling with the slate. 

“Spirits,” was Truesdell’s reply. 

There were a few tense seconds and then the seance 
continued serenely. 

I was too young in Slade’s time to seek an audience 
with him but I have the good fortune to know Mr. Fred- 
erick E. Powell, a prominent magician and a member of 
the Society of American Magicians. He is one of the very 




A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


89 


few persons now living who had seances with Slade and 
with his permission I quote the following description of 
his experiences with Slade. 

“In the Autumn of 1881 or 82, Henry Slade, the fa- 
mous Spirit medium, came to Philadelphia and took quar- 
ters at the Colonade Hotel, where he opened a room, in 
which to hold seances. At that time I was instructor of 
Mathematics in the Pennsylvania Military College at 
Chester, Pa. Reading the announcement of Slade’s 
seances in a Philadelphia paper, I wrote to him, and made 
an appointment for myself and Capt. R. K. Carter, to be 
present at one of them. Capt. Carter was at that time 
our instructor in Civil Engineering. Reaching the Col- 
onade at the appointed time, we were ushered into Slade’s 
presence, in a room, bare of furniture, save a rather long 
table and several chairs, placed in the center of the room, 
while at the side and just back of where Slade was to sit, 
was a smaller table on which were piled a number of 
ordinary looking school slates, of various sizes. The 
center table had no cloth on it. Several small articles 
were on the mantelpiece, such as a smoker might use, 
viz.: a match box, etc. 

“According to my recollection, Slade was rather tall 
and slim, and of an ingratiating presence. He was expect- 
ing us and at once placed me at a long table. 

“The seance began, with Slade holding two slates of 
rather large size, and showing all their surfaces devoid 
of writing, placed them on the top of the table, and while 
rubbing their surfaces kept up a running fire of conversa- 
tion. He then told us to place our hands on the table 
as near the center as possible with our little fingers touch- 
ing. Slade placed the slates together, and after a moment 
or two separated them, saying he had forgotten to put a 
piece of pencil between. This he did, and holding them 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


together placed them under the table with one hand, while 
he placed the other on the table so that his fingers touched 
our hands. This position was held for several minutes, 
when he said he would see if he had gotten any results. 
Bringing the slates from under the table he laid them 
on top and after a moment told Capt. Carter to look at 
them. Following this direction, Capt. Carter separated 
them, when one was found to have its entire surface 
covered with writing. This message, according to Slade, 
came from a man who had just died. (Notice of the 
man’s death had been published in the morning paper.) 
The message was signed with the full name, but as neither 
Capt. Carter nor I knew the man, we could not affirm 
or deny the correctness of the handwriting, nor the truth 
of the signature. 

“Capt. Carter asked Slade if he might copy the mes- 
sage, hut Slade demurred, saying he did not know if the 
Spirits would like the message copied. I found it difficult 
to account for the reticence of the Spirit or Spirits since 
the message had been written for our information. Its 
purport was, as far as I can recall, that everything was 
very glorious in the Spirit World, and that he, the writer, 
was very happy. There was nothing in the message that 
was above the mentality of Slade or that was, in any sense, 
descriptive of Spirit Life. All was vague and unsatis- 
factory, where real information was desired. 

“During this demonstration and indeed throughout the 
entire seance, Slade sat sidewise to the table, his left 
hand resting generally on its top and his right hand free. 
Several short messages were next produced on a small 
slate held by Slade, under the table, and out of sight, 
a short piece of slate pencil always being placed on the 
upper surface of the slate. Two points were made very 
emphatic by Slade. First, that the piece of pencil was 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


91 


always found just at the end of the last word of the 
message, and second, that the messages were found on 
the upper side of the slate, which according to Slade was 
held close against the under surface of the table top. 
However, as we could not see the slate when placed under 
the table, since we were reaching as far as we could to 
get our hands on the center of its top, and the slate was 
only shown to us when being brought from under its 
surface, it would have been an easy thing to lower the 
slate after placing it under the table and writing with a 
single finger of Slade’s right hand, then bringing the slate 
to the under surface of the table, bring it slowly into 
sight. 

“Once when the small slate was laid on top of the table 
the sound of writing was distinctly heard. During this 
time Slade had both hands on the upper surface of the 
table and in full sight. This was quite startling at the 
time, but later I discovered how to produce this sound of 
writing myself and without the aid of Spirits. 

“Once, while we were having our attention directed to 
a slate held by Slade, the unoccupied chair on the side 
opposite to Slade and almost at the side of Capt. Carter, 
suddenly rose so that its seat struck the under side of the 
table, and then fell back with quite a thud. 

“Another telling effect was carried out, when Slade 
gave me one of the small slates telling me to hold it 
under the table. I did so and felt it suddenly snatched 
from my hand (I was holding it with one hand, my other 
hand was on the top of the table) and carried with a 
scraping noise to the very end of the table and there it 
rose above the surface enough to disclose about a third 
or possibly a half its length. Then it was carried swiftly 
back and put in my hand. 

“This concluded the first seance; when Slade, after a 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


moment, said he thought that was all he could get at 
the time. 

“On our second visit I need recount but three effects : 
First, difference in the method of obtaining writing on 
the large slates which began the seance, as in the first 
visit. Slade showed one slate and cleaned it thoroughly, 
then while keeping up a running fire of conversation, he 
casually reached to the small table, spoken of as having 
several piles of slates on it, and taking one as though at 
hazard, placed it flat on the big table. Rubbed its upper 
surface with his fingers, and placed a piece of pencil on 
it, held it under the table. After a pause he brought it 
out and taking the upper slate off the under, showed both 
surfaces without writing. He remarked that perhaps a 
different piece of pencil would be better and he placed 
another pencil on the upper surface of the top slate and 
then placed the lower slate over it, without at any time 
having shown its under surface. This surface was found 
covered with writing, the purport of which I do not now 
recall. 

“The second variation of the first seance was when 
Slade asked me if I had ever seen the ‘dematerialization 
of a solid object?’ I said I had not, whereupon Slade 
took a small slate and, looking around as though to find 
a proper object for his test, picked up a match box from 
the mantelpiece, and put it on the upper surface of the 
slate rather close to where he would hold it. He then 
placed the slate and its superimposed object carefuffy 
under the table and after a moment brought out the slate, 
without the match box. I looked under the table hut 
found nothing suspicious there. 

“In a moment Slade replaced the slate under the table 
and on bringing it out, we saw the match box in its former 
place. This disappearance did not impress me greatly as 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


93 


I concluded the whole secret of dematerialization consisted 
in turning the slate over and holding the box in place 
by a finger, then after showing the surface empty, the 
slate was again turned over on being replaced under the 
table, and so the materialization of the box was realized. 

“The last test was quite startling. Slade drew his 
chair close to mine, placed one of his hands on the chair 
hack and the other on the table. My hands were resting 
on the table top. Suddenly I felt the chair rise, and I 
was tipped forward, but kept my balance by pushing back 
with my hands, which, as I have said, were resting on 
the table top. Then the force was quickly withdrawn 
and my chair and I came back to the floor with a grand 
thud. This concluded the second seance. I never saw 
Slade again.” 

Powell explains the levitation thus: 

“When Slade drew his chair close to mine he crossed 
his legs and was thus enabled to bring his foot under the 
rung of my chair. The leg resting over the knee gave 
considerable leverage to the limb having a foot under 
the rung of my chair. Now he exerted the necessary 
strength by pressing upward with his foot, and holding 
the chair back with his hand while the other hand steadied 
the whole, by bearing against the table. Slade took his 
hand away from the back of my chair for the fraction 
of a second before he released his foot. I was thus natu- 
rally tilted forward and had to exert some force to keep 
myself from sliding off the chair. This effort kept me 
from seeing Slade free himself and get his limbs back to 
their normal position, viz., one hand on the table, and his 
feet and legs fairly under it. Slate was rather tall and, 
though somewhat slim, was very muscular. Of course I 
did not actually see Slade use his foot to do the lifting, 
but his position and all the circumstances surrounding 


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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


the effect tend to prove my claim as to what I believe 
he did. Further, while I was far from being as strong 
as Slade, I succeeded in duplicating this ‘Levitation’ by 
the means I have described.” 

While searching for material about Slade I heard of an 
old medium living in Philadelphia by the name of 
Remigius Weiss, known as Remigius Albus, who had 
testified before the Seybert Commission regarding Slade’s 
manipulation of the slates. I went over to Philadelphia 
to his home and there met the only man who had tangible 
evidence of Dr. Slade. This he thoroughly explained 
to me. I asked him why he had never exposed it to the 
world and he told me that he held back at first because 
of pity for Slade’s condition and afterwards figured that 
if the fraud mediums and other potential criminals knew 
Slade’s methods they might make use of the methods to 
gain control of poor human beings who wished to get in 
touch with loved ones who had passed away. He did 
not hesitate to give me full details and at my request 
wrote me a letter describing his experience with Slade. I 
quote it because I believe it to be the best expose ever 
written of Slade’s slate writings. 


“August 18, 1923. 


“My dear Houdini: — 

“Please accept, from me, this Lock-book, and the 
locked double-slate — as a small token of comradeship — 
in combating Spiritualistic deception, popular superstition 
and Delusion. 

“The book and the slate were my own. I put the lock 
and hinges on the slate, and prepared the book, and a 
number of other, different objects — (such as Professor 
Zollner had, when he, in his foolishness, was pleased to 
be deceived by Dr. Slade’s Humbug) . 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


95 


“In order to gain the perfect, full confidence of Dr. 
Slade, and to have him give a seance in my home, and 
in order to counteract and overcome his explicit aversion 
as to do writing on or between a sealed slate or a locked 
book — I showed him letters from (two eminent and con- 
fiding Spiritist Authors) — Dr. Heinrich Tiedemann and 
Tiedemann’s intimate friend Hudson Tuttle, promising to 
me that they would be present at that seance (at 148 
Fairmount Avenue). 

“Dr. Slade had handled and inspected that Book and 
Slate, during a Seance, at my residence (at 148 Fair- 
mount Avenue, Phila., Pa.), where I, together with Mr. 
Wertheimer (then a student of Jurisprudence) — and in 
presence of other witnesses (who were concealed and not 
seen, nor suspected by Dr. Slade, nor his ‘Spirits’) de- 
tected the manipulations, pedalations (foot, leg and other 
bodily movements) — and the general modus operandi of 
his simple Legerdemain at the seance. I had ready, for 
that seance, three different suites of Furniture, and thus, 
1 found out that he would, or could, perform only at, or 
on a certain kind of plain, square or drop-leaf table and 
ordinary wooden chairs or cane seat chairs. 

“Each person present at the Seance, wrote, independent 
of and before communicating with, the others, a personal, 
individual report of the Seance and signed it within the 
next few days. A day or two after, I put these papers in 
my pocket and also another paper I had prepared, to serve 
or use as Dr. Slade’s confession to he signed by him. 
I went to the Girard Hotel, Room 24 (N. W. corner of 
9th and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, Pa.), to have 
Dr. Slade arrested for obtaining money under false pre- 
tense, — or to get him to sign his own confession. There, 
in his room. No. 24, in the Girard Hotel, I had another, 
a different Seance, with Dr. Slade. He again carefully 



96 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


scrutinized the book and the slate, and then, holding the, 
book under the table, secretly and carefully, attempted 
to open the lock, with a small key, hidden in his 
handkerchief. 

“Dr. Slade and his pretended ‘Spirits’ could not write 
in the book. While holding it under the table, he at- 
tempted to pull out of the book that thin, wooden, square 
frame, I had put there at the edges of the leaves so that 
the small piece of lead pencil could move about. — Then, 
in a similar attempt, he worked and perspired, on, and 
over the double slate. His ‘Spirits’ could not write in 
the locked slate and he could not open it. 

“He said, ‘The Spirits seem to be angry at your skep- 
ticism, it’s no use to lose more time by trying. My guide 
don’t want to have anything more to do with you.’ 

“Then upon Dr. Slade’s request I unlocked the slate, 
and he wrote in the ordinary way, as writing generally 
is done in schools, two short sentences in the slate. Then 
he worked the sponge,* and turning the written on side 
downward, sleight-of-hand trick, tried to palm this off, 
claiming that this is ‘Genuine, independent. Spirit slate 
writing.’ 

“Up to this time, November the 4th, 1882, I had 
shown to Dr. Slade friendly, joyful attentiveness. We 
talked about some of my newspaper articles I had pub- 
lished some weeks before he consented to give me a seance. 

“In these newspapers I had described him (Dr. Slade) 
as ‘The Modem Cagliostro, a celebrated necromancer, 
martyr or a charlatan, of radical free-religious proclivities, 
fine manners and a humistic, witty and forceful public 
lecturer and most powerful Spiritistic Medium, who again 

*As he reached for the sponge, which had been placed purposely on centre 
of table, he held slate just below range of vision and with the reaching for 
sponge, twisted slate around, blank side on top and pretended to wipe off the 
sentence he had “read” — when in fact be had written something entirely different, 




LOCKED SLATE USED BY DR. HENRY SLADE IN HIS WRITING TESTS AT PHILADELPHIA 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


97 


and again has been and is challenging exposures, and 
calling special attention to the fact that Dr. Slade has, 
in his lectures, and otherwise, again and again publicly 
announced that he is prepared to pay a thousand dollars 
($1000.00) to any person that can prove that he (Dr. 
Slade) is a humbug, or that Dr. Slade’s “manifestations” 
are trickery, legerdemain, humbug or in any way 
fraudulent.’ 

“Dr. Slade seemed to be pleased by my description. 
After some pleasant talk as to his appearance with Scien- 
tists, Kings and other royal persons and Rulers in Europe 
and his success as a lecturer and his way of living, he 
gave me his address, No. 221 West 22nd Street, New 
York. 

“Then I asked Dr. Slade that we change ‘roles,’ he to 
take my place and be the Investigator, — and I to play 
the ‘medium,’ there, in his room, as an ‘experiment.’ 

“Dr. Slade also said that if I could overcome my skep- 
ticism I would be a good ‘psychic,’ having ‘mediumistic’ 
gifts. 

“I suggested that he should watch me carefully and 
then honestly tell me, as to the effect and ‘impression’ 
my ‘manifestations’ could (or would) be producing on his 
mind, and eventually on the outcome of the ‘Spiritualistic, 
the Harmonial, Philosophy, or so-called, Scientific Re- 
ligion of the Spiritists.’ 

“Then, to his consternation, I, earnestly, by actual 
demonstration, reproduced every one of his manifesta- 
tions, exactly (and by the same modus operandi, as I, 
and my witnesses had seen and detected) as Dr. Slade 
had performed them. He asked me, how, and by what 
means we detected his ‘occult’ or secret mode, or ‘process 
of wonder working’ or miracle? — I mentioned that he had 
positively refused to try any ‘experiment’ on the first and 



98 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


second sets of tables and chairs, and had requested me 
to substitute them by a plain kitchen table and chairs 
of a certain construction. 

“I told him that I had bored observation -holes in the 
corners of the panels (particularly so through the lower 
corners) in the parlor doors, the floor, ceiling and other 
places from where my concealed witnesses observed, and 



SKETCH SHOWING SLADe’s SEAT AT THE TABLE, DIFTEHEXT POSITIONS OF 
SLATES, LOCATION OF SPONGE, AND METHOD OF MOVING BOOK 


have seen exactly all the movements of his feet, hands, 
etc., below and above the table, — saw how he raised 
(‘floated’) Mr. Wertheimer sitting in the chair, saw how 
he (Dr. Slade) with his foot upset chairs, kicked a book 
(extending over the edge of the table) tossed a slate 
pencil from the edge of the table from a slate held under 
and at the edge of the table, etc, etc. 

“Dr. Slade, now turned very pale and wiping off the 
thick perspiration from his forehead and face, said: — 
‘Well, what of it?’ and rashly asked: — ‘Where were Hud- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


99 


son Tuttle and Dr. H. Tiedemann?’ I reminded him of 
the fact that they had sent an excuse, being unahle (hy 
reason of unforeseen circumstances) to attend that seance 
in my house. 

“Then I sternly gave him the alternative: — That either 
he sign his own confession (as to the fact) — that he has 
(during the many years in his career as a professional 
Spirit medium and in everything he had professed or 
pretended to he ‘genuine’ Spiritistic or Spiritualistic) 
deceived and defrauded the public. — I read the confession 
to him and sternly demanded, ‘Either you sign this or 
you will he put behind the bars.’ — 

CONFESSION 

“The undersigned, Henry Slade, known professionally 
as Dr. Henry Slade, — the powerful Spiritistic medium — 
by reason of the force of unfavorable circumstances, years 
ago became a Spiritualistic slate writing (etc., etc.) 
medium, and Spiritistic lecturer and he herewith confesses 
that all his pretended Spiritualistic manifestations were 
and are deceptions, performed through tricks. 

(Signed) H. Slade.” 

“I (R. Weiss) had also stipulated that he (Dr. Slade) 

1 promises to discontinue his present dishonest, criminal 

I method of gaining a livelihood by preying on the super - 

| stition of Spiritualists and through the gullibility of the 

I public, — Dr. Slade then remonstrated and said: — that I 

could not affect his standing in the eyes of those who had 
1 seen and believed his manifestations, mentioning the Czar 

» of Russia and others of world prominence. 

“I then walked to the door, signifying that my part of 
| the interview and argument was ended — and also con- 

I 

j 



100 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


veying the ‘impression’ as to my intention to have him 
arrested. 

“He then changed his attitude and in a cringing man- 
ner he pleaded with me to have mercy on him, as he had 
only this one method of earning a livelihood. All of this, 
and his pleading, was so strenuous that he fell in a ‘dead’ 
faint. — 

“Then, after I ‘revived’ him out of a ‘ genuine ’ fainting 
spell, he begged me to desist from having him arrested 
and then he signed the confession. 

(Signed) “Remigius Weiss.” 



CHAPTER VII 


SLATE WRITING AND 
OTHER METHODS 

A remarkably large number of methods have been 
used at one time and another by the numerous mediums 
of lesser repute than Slade who prospered on slate writing. 
Slade himself, like any skilled prestidigitator, had a 
variety of ways which he used to produce his effects. His 
usual method was very simple. A common kitchen table 
with the leaves extended was used, the Doctor being seated 
at the end and the client on the side against the leaf, at 
the Doctor’s right. 

After the slate had been thoroughly washed on both 
sides he placed it under the leaf at the left of the sitter, 
holding it in position with the fingers of his right hand, 
with his thumb above the table. The sitter was requested 
to hold the left end of the slate with one hand and with 
the other to grasp the Doctor’s left hand near the center 
of the table. In such a position it was impossible for 
the sitter to see the slate or the fingers of the medium. 

On the forefinger of his right hand Slade had a 
sort of thimble or ring to which was attached a bit of 
slate pencil. With this he wrote a short message on the 
bottom side of the slate, the scratching of the pencil being 
quite audible to the sitter. When this scratching ceased 
the Doctor would be seized with a series of nervous spasms 
during which the slate was snatched from the sitter’s hand 
for the fraction of a second and, unknown to him, turned 

101 


102 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


over, thus bringing the message to the top so that when 
a few minutes later it was shown the message appeared 
as though written between the slate and the table leaf. 

A second method, which produced longer messages, 
was the substitution of slates. If this message was of a 
general character the slate was switched for one bearing 
a previously written message concealed about a nearby 
piece of furniture. If a special message was required it 
was written by an assistant listening in the next room. 
When the slate had been cleaned ready for the message 
the Doctor gave the cue and the assistant rapped on the 
door. The Doctor answered the knock in person, taking 
the slate with him, and while listening to some common- 
place report the slates were exchanged. On resuming his 
seat the slate was placed under the table leaf as before. 
No sound of writing being heard, he would examine the 
top of the slate several times but of course find no writing. 
Finally, claiming that the influence did not seem powerful 
enough, he would lay the slate on the top of the table, 
message side down with a piece of pencil under it, and 
then take both the hands of the sitter in his. Soon a 
sound of writing would be heard and on examination the 
message would be found. It was possible for Slade to 
produce the sound of writing while his hands were hold- 
ing those of his client by slipping a piece of pencil 
through threads on the side of his knee and rubbing it 
against another piece held to the table leg by a wooden 
clip. 

One of the most common methods of slate writing is 
known as the “flap slate.” The message is written be- 
forehand and concealed with a flap of silicated gauze, or 
thin slate, which fits closely within the slate frame. One 
side of this flap is covered with cloth to match that 
used on the top of the table and when it is dropped is 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


103 


unnoticed. A better way is to cover the back of the flap 
with newspaper and by dropping it on a newspaper it 
becomes invisible. 

There is an ingenious double form of this flap slate 
with which it is possible to make a message appear on 
both inside surfaces of a pair of locked slates without 
having them leave the sight of the sitter for an instant. 
The two slates are hinged together like the old-fashioned 
school slates but with the hinges on the outside of the 
slates. The slabs of slate are very thin and the ends of 
the frames bevel toward them slightly. One end of each 
frame is so made that by pressing on one of the hinge 
screws the frame end is released and can be drawn out 
about a quarter of an inch. A very thin slab of slate 
called the “flap” is arranged to fit snugly over the real 
slate when the frame ends are in place but drops out as 
soon as they are released and drawn out. In working 
these slates the medium writes a message on the inside 
of one of them, say the left, and also on one side of the 
flap. The end of the slate with the message is then drawn 
out and the flap inserted, message side down, and the 
frame fastened back in place. A secret mark on the out- 
side of the frame shows which slate is written upon. The 
slates can then be shown and will appear clean on all! 
four sides, and it is possible to either seal or lock them 
without interfering with the success of the demonstration. 
They are then placed on the table with the fake ends 
nearest the medium and while he leans on their ends with 
half-folded arms, engaging the sitter in conversation, he at 
the same time with the fingers of his concealed hand pulls 
out the frame ends, allowing the flap to fall from one slate 
to the other, and then secures it in place by putting the 
ends back. Of course when the slates are opened a closely 
written message is found on both. 



104 A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 

Another sort of double slate intended for producing a 
similar effect in dark seances or cabinet work also has a 
loose end which instead of moving a quarter of an inch 
draws out to any length, bringing the slab with it. After 
the lights are out or the cabinet closed it is an easy matter 
to draw out the slab and write a message on it. 

Writing is sometimes pro- 
duced between two perfectly 
honest slates which have 
been fastened together at the 
corners by inserting a wedge 
of hard wood between the 
frames, thus separating them 
enough to slip between them 
a piece of wire with a bit of 
slate pencil fastened to its 
tip. By this means a mes- 
sage can be produced at a 
dark seance in a few minutes 
without breaking the seals. 

There is a form of slate 
where the slab is invisibly 
hinged on the side so that it 
opens like a door and is held shut by a secret catch. This 
slate can be used in a dark seance or under the table at a 
light one. It can also be used on a cloth-top table with an 
invisible trap. The trap and the hinged slate drop down 
together and the medium is able to write on the slate by 
reaching under the table. 

Still another scheme used with a pair of hinged slates 
is to have a hole through both frames at one end and 
locking them with a padlock. In working this the pins 
are pushed out of the hinges and the frames, moving 
easily on the shackle of the padlock, permit the medium 



MEANS OF WEDGE AND WIRE* 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


105 


to write on the inside of the slates without difficulty, after- 
wards fastening the slates together again by simply re- 
placing the pins in the hinges. 

A method of concealing an extra slate is to have it a 
trifle smaller than the rest and then hidden in some con- 
venient place, say the seat of a chair. A large slate is 
first examined and laid on the chair. Later it is picked 
up with the extra one under it. Sometimes the extra one 
is hidden under the edge of a rug on the floor and worked 
in the same way. At other times it is hidden on the 
medium’s body and slipped under a large slate when the 
medium stands with his right side on a line with the 
sitter’s vision. 

An entirely different method is employed to some 
extent by mediums who are very rapid and interesting 
talkers. Throughout the seance the medium walks 
nervously about the room, keeping up a continual flow of 
conversation. He passes two slates to the sitter for exam- 
ination. A third, the same size, with a previously written 
message on one side, being concealed in a large pocket 
inside the breast of his coat. While the slates are being 
examined he walks about the room sometimes behind and 
sometimes in front of the sitter, tapping him on the 
shoulder to emphasize his remarks. As soon as the slates 
are examined he takes them and, passing behind the sitter, 
places them on his head and asks him to hold them there 
and at the same time continuing his walk and talk. Of 
course when the slates are examined there is a message 
on the inside of one of them. When the medium steps 
behind the sitter with the slates in his hand he quickly 
changes the slate with a message which he has hidden for 
one of the blank ones. This is no more bold or difficult 
than many mediumistic tricks but it requires a particularly 
fluent conversationalist to successfully produce the needed 



106 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


amount of misdirection when the slates are switched. 
Women mediums effect a similar exchange sometimes by 
the aid of a special pocket in the dress. 

A very effective method of getting a direct answer to 
a question on the inside of a sealed double slate is as 
follows. The slates are thoroughly cleansed by the sitter, 
who writes a question on a slip of paper, folds it and 
places it between the slates, with a bit of pencil. The 
medium keeps at a distance during the writing and can- 
not see what has been written. The slates are then sealed 
with strips of paper and placed on the table and the 
sitter holds both hands of the medium. After a time, as 
no sound of writing is heard, the medium shows some 
concern as to the possibility of failure and suggests that 
the sitter hold the slates at the top of his own head. Still 
there is no sound and the slates are returned to the table, 
where they remain for some time without any sign of 
writing. The medium becomes very much worried and 
suggests that the slates be placed on the sitter’s head 
again, remarking that if no sound is heard he will be 
obliged to postpone that test till a future sitting. This 
time the writing is heard almost as soon as the slates 
touch the head and when it ceases and the slates are un- 
sealed a complete answer is found written on the inner 
surface of one or both slates. 

This seeming marvel is produced in the following sim- 
ple manner. The medium’s assistant steals into the room 
with a duplicate pair of sealed slates and stands behind 
the sitter. In the act of placing the slates on the head 
a switch is made, and the sitter holds the duplicates while 
the originals are taken into an adjoining room by the 
assistant. He lifts the seals with a hot table knife and 
after reading the question he writes an appropriate an- 
swer, reseals the slates and returns to his position behind 




houdini, mrs. houdini, and mb. teale demonstrating a method of switch- 
ing SLATES OVER A SITTER’S HEAD 




A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


107 


the sitter. Another exchange is made when the slates 
are placed on the sitter’s head the second time. The 
sound of writing is made by the medium under the table 
with a piece of slate pencil and a bit of slate, but it is 
so faint that the sitter cannot locate it. 

In Bohemia, Province of Prague, I ran across a medium 
who was especially good in slate writing. At first I could 
not “get” his work. When I was playing in Berlin, at 
the Wintergarten, he came in one night and wanted to 
give a performance to the directors. I was guest but 
went prepared for him. His work was so designed that 
he walked behind us and in so doing he baffled me. I 
asked for a private sitting and he readily consented. 

When he did the slate writing at this sitting I felt 
someone’s presence, and, sure enough, when he took the 
slates away there was an almost imperceptible hesitation. 
In this fraction of a second the slates were switched 
through a trap in the panel behind me. I had a mirror 
on a rubber elastic fastened to my vest and as I took my 
seat I pulled the elastic so I could sit on it. I managed 
to secure this mirror and keep it palmed in my hand, and 
with it saw the panel slide open, the arm extended with 
the duplicate slates, and the exchange made. 

S. S. Baldwin, an acknowledged expert in Spiritualistic 
and Telepathic tomfoolery, was bamboozled by a Dr. Fair, 
according to his own story which he told to me in De- 
cember, 1920. He received a message on a slate held by 
himself under a table, and afterwards, at the suggestion 
of the Doctor, made a thorough examination of the table, 
the room, and everything in sight, but failed to discover 
a concealed door in the wainscot of the wall through 
which a man in black garments could find his way to space 
under a sofa and thence to the table, which was a rather 
large one, do the Spirit writing and then make his exit 



108 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


while Mr. Baldwin was fully occupied holding the slate 
under the table with his eyes fixed on space above it. 

One of the very best mediumistic tricks, and one that 
has made the reputation of more than one well-known 
medium, is done with a number of small slates and one 
large one. The size of the slates is immaterial hut the 
large one should he three or four inches larger each way 
than the others. The manner of presentation differs 
somewhat with different performers but in general is as 
follows. 

When the sitters arrive the slates are piled near one 
corner of the table, the larger one at the bottom and eight 
or nine smaller ones on top of it. The medium stands 
at the end of the table nearest the slates and after a few 
casual remarks he picks up the top slate with his left 
hand, changes it to his right and passes it to the sitter to 
be examined and cleaned if desired. When he is quite 
satisfied the medium takes it back, glances at both sides, 
and then places it on the table directly in front of the 
sitter. This is repeated with the remaining small slates, 
which are not stacked up evenly but left in a haphazard 
pile. While the last small slate is being placed on the 
pile with the medium’s right hand he picks up the large 
slate with his left and rests it on top of the others, at the 
same time passing the sitter a pencil and asking him to 
write a few lines on it requesting the Spirits to favor him 
with a message and to sign his name to it. He is at 
liberty to examine this slate also and to write his message 
on either side. 

The large slate is then placed at the right of the sitter 
and he is asked to place his right hand on it. The small 
slates are then evened up by the medium, secured by a 
heavy rubber band and then placed in the center of the 
table. The medium then takes a seat at the table opposite 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


109 


the sitter and they clasp hands at the sides of the slates. 
After a sufficient pause the slates are unbound by the 
sitter and on a slate near the center of the stack a message 
is found written in chalk or slate pencil and signed by 
a departed friend. 

The secret of this startling effect is extremely simple. 
Concealed beneath the big slate at the beginning of the 
seance is a smaller slate with the message already written 
on it. This is picked up with the larger one when the 
latter is placed on the stack for the sitter to write on it 
and dropped on the others, written side down. The extra 
slate is never noticed as the pile has not been counted 
and the business of passing the slate pencil occupies the 
sitter’s attention so that he does not realize that the large 
slate rests on the small ones before he examines it. 

The medium then takes about half the small slates, evens 
them up and lays them to one side and repeats with the 
remaining ones, laying them evenly on the others. This 
is a perfectly natural move as the whole stack makes more 
than a handful and by means of it the slate with the mes- 
sage is placed in the middle of the stack. The stack is 
then set on end, the rubber band placed around it, and it 
is then ready to be placed in the middle of the table for 
conclusion of the seance. 

Two methods of writing between locked or sealed dou- 
ble slates when only one or two words were needed puzzled 
the investigators for a long time. The first was worked 
with a strong magnet. The bit of slate pencil which was 
put between the slates was specially prepared with either 
powdered soapstone mixed with iron filings, water, and 
glue, or a small piece of iron was used covered with a 
paste of soapstone, water, and mucilage. By holding the 
magnet under the slates and tracing the words backwards 
the prepared pencils would follow the magnet and write 



110 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


the words. The other method was worked with an electro 
magnet set in the table, the necessary wires running down 
one leg and making contact with a copper plate in the 
floor under the rug by means of a sharp metal point on 
the end of the leg. 

Since the introduction of “raps” * by the Fox Sisters 
various methods have been devised for producing them. 
One of the simplest expedients is for the medium to 
slightly moisten the fingers and slide them very gently 
on the top of the table. A little experimenting soon 
shows the amount of pressure necessary to produce the 
desired amount of sound and of course the medium is 
cautious to let the fingers move only the desired distance 
and that too when no one is looking. 

Another simple method is to place the thumbs close 
together in such a manner that the nail of one overlaps 
the other a trifle. Then while the thumbs are pressed 
hard on the table if one nail is slipped up or down dis- 
tinct raps are produced which seem to come from the top 
of the table. 

Some mediums produce raps by slipping a knee up and 
down against a table leg. Others have been known to 
fasten blocks of wood to the knee under the skirt and rap 
on the table leg with a sidewise motion of the knee. Still 
others strike the table leg with the heel of the shoe or 
press the side of the heel against the table leg and by 
moving the heel up and down the friction of the leather 
against the wood produces raps. 

Many mediums will not depend on these methods but 
use more complicated ones which produce the raps by 
means of mechanical devices which they conceal about 

* In regard to involuntary and subconscious table rapping and tapping: 
Some people rap and tip table in all seances of table tipping and rapping. 
I have attended seances where I have caught some one obligingly cheating to 
relieve the monotony, and the imposition once started is forced to be kept up. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


111 


their person. One of these consists of a small hollow 
metal tube in which a long, heavy burlap needle is ar- 
to move up and 
down like a piston, and at- 
tached to it to operate it a 
stout black thread. The 
tube is fastened to the inner 
side of a trouser leg. The 
free end of the thread is 
brought out through a seam 
and an inconspicuous little 
hook attached. After being 
seated at the seance table 
the medium attaches the 
little hook to the opposite 
trouser leg and draws on it 
until the needle point 
comes through the cloth. 

He then watches an opportunity to press on to the point of 
the needle a cork to which has been attached a piece of lead. 

This accomplished, all he 
has to do is to place the knee 
in the proper relation to the 
table and by moving the 
other back and forth the 
piston is made to work up 
and down, causing the 
leaded cork to rap out all 
sorts of messages. 

RAPPING MECHAHTISM IN HEEL OF . ° 

medium’s shoe. Another ingenious me- 

chanical contrivance is built 
into the heel of the medium’s shoe and operated electrically 
by running a wire from it up through the sole of the shoe 
and passing it between the back of the shoe and the foot 





TUBE AND PISTON ARRANGEMENT FOB 
MAKING BAPS. 



112 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


and so on up the leg to batteries concealed in a pocket. By 
placing this heel against a table leg the raps can be made 
to sound as though coming from the middle of the table 
and with a proper amount of “suggestion” the sitters can 
he made to believe that the mysterious taps are produced 
in turn under each pair of hands on the table. 

Table levitating is easily accomplished in the dark, 
through the aid of a confederate, by several different 
methods. If the medium and his assistant are seated 
opposite, by raising their knees at a signal they can lift 
the table from the floor without difficulty. By slightly 
rocking or tipping the table the medium and assistant 
can simultaneously slip a foot under table legs diagonally 
opposite, lift the table and keep it balanced by the pres- 
sure of the hands on its top. These and many similar 
methods are perfectly practical in dark seances hut for 
manifestations where there is any danger of the sitters 
being able to see mechanical contrivances are resorted to. 
The oldest form is simply a light, though powerfully 
strong, length of blue steel riveted to a stout leather wrist 
strap. When not in use the whole thing is concealed in 
the medium’s sleeve. Sometimes both the medium and 
the assistant are thus equipped. 

This has been somewhat superseded by a chamois- 
covered flat steel hodc concealed under the vest and 
riveted to a tight-fitting leather belt encircling the me- 
dium’s body. With this hook under the table edge great 
power can he exerted upon the table with very little 
strain upon the operator. The lifting strength of a human 
hair is not generally known, yet by means of one freshly 
taken from the head, long enough to span a small light 
table, the table can be lifted. One of the more modern 
contrivances is a steel belt which the operator wears and 
to the front of which is attached a short metal arm which 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


113 


can be engaged under the table top in such a way that 
the operator can take his hands off the table and still 
support it in the air. When releasing the table the metal 
arm is slipped back and the steel belt shifted to another 
position on the body, the medium’s coat concealing both. 

Just as advances are made in other lines of work, so too 
mediums advance in their methods of deceiving their 
subjects. Few would resort to the old-time methods of 
releasing a foot from under the foot of an investigator. 
They have devised a new and baffling method. The 
medium’s shoes are especially made for her in such a way 
that by a certain pressure on the sole it is possible to 
withdraw the greater portion of the shoe with the foot 
from a false front. This front is made of metal and 
padded. When the medium asks the committee to place 
their feet on hers she makes sure that they do not over- 
reach the portion she can withdraw from. In the full 
glare of the light the investigator thinks he feels the 
medium’s foot securely held under his own and as he 
cannot see under the table the medium has the full use 
of her foot to produce manifestations. 

I once gave a seance while I was touring in England. 
It was a dark seance and just at the psychological moment 
a Spirit came through the window and walked around 
on the wall and ceiling of the room and then out of 
another window. The explanation is simple. On the bill 
with me were two acrobats, hand to hand balancers. One 
took off his shoes and stockings and the other sneaked up to 
him. He pulled down the window and then did a hand-to- 
hand balance with his partner and walked around the room. 
He then went back to his seat, put on his shoes, and 
looked as innocent and meek as possible under the circum- 
stances when the lights were turned on. I told every one 



114 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


present that it was only a trick but as usual they insisted 
that I was a medium. 

A rope trick which always causes astonishment and 
helps to create a belief in supernatural aid is done by 
a woman medium who enters a cabinet with a rope bound 
around her neck. The loose ends of the rope are forced 
through opposite sides of the cabinet and held tightly 
by two members of the committee. Nevertheless the 
manifestations take place just the same and when the 
cabinet is opened afterwards the medium is found bound 
just as she was before the seance. As a matter of fact 
when the curtains have been closed and the committee 
have a grip on the ends of the rope the medium cuts the 
specially tied loop around her neck. When she is ready 
to come out she simply ties another loop, using a dupli- 
cate piece of rope which she had concealed on her person. 
When the committee release the ends of the rope she slips 
the mutilated piece into her bloomers and appears with 
the duplicate, which looks like the original one. 

There are various methods of producing Spirit photo- 
graphs. One is to have a table prepared so that a develop- 
ing pan is placed where an X-ray penetrates to the 
negative. This produces a “Spirit light.” Another is to 
fix the side of the plate with some luminous substance, 
shape, or flash, and it is astonishing what these things 
look like. You get forms and frequently recognize faces 
in the splotches. Father de Heredia has palmed a figure in 
his hand and as the investigator signed the negative re- 
marked: “I might as well sign it myself.” In so doing 
he rested the left hand over the plate while signing with 
his right and the phosporous figure in his hand was photo- 
graphed on the negative. A simple method is to have 
something concealed in the hand and hold it over the lens 
instead of a cap, and still another is to get the camera 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


115 


out of focus and snap it secretly, then when the regular 
exposure is made there is an additional hazy something 
on the plate. 

One of the most startling swindles I ever heard of a 
medium working was called “finger-printing a Spirit.” In 
this test the medium shows the sitter finger prints of the 
departed soul. I hesitated at first about including this 
fake, fearing to add to the stock of unscrupulous mediums 
but I finally concluded that the public should know about 
it. The scheme was first discovered by a sculptor who 
dabbled some in Spiritualism. One day, several years 
ago, a workman fell from the top of the building, in which 
this man had his studio, and was killed. The body was 
carried into the studio and while alone with it the sculptor 
conceived the idea of fooling some guests who were to 
hold a seance that night. He hurriedly made a plaster 
of Paris mould of the dead man’s fingers and later filled 
it with a rubber-like substance used in his work. When 
this had hardened and the plaster had been removed it 
resembled, even to the most minute detail, the dead hand. 

During the seance that night he produced finger prints 
with it on a trumpet which he had lampblacked and upon 
investigation it was found that these finger prints corre- 
sponded exactly with those of the man in the morgue. 
No one was able to explain the mystery and he kept the 
secret for some time but later another medium learned 
it and obtained a position in an undertaking establish- 
ment where he found an opportunity after a while to 
secure the finger prints of several of the dead who be- 
longed to the wealthy class. In due time he arranged 
seances with the relatives and convinced them of his 
genuineness. There are two cases on record where for- 
tunes were at stake because of this sort of fraud. In one 
case five hundred thousand dollars changed hands upon 



116 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


the recognition of the finger prints of a man who had died 
two years before. His hand had been maimed in an 
accident and all the scars showed in the impression on the 
Spirit slate. Fortunately a confession was wrung from 
the medium and the money went to the rightful heirs. 

A “manifestation” which seems mysterious but which is 
in reality ridiculously simple is worked as follows. A 
glass is filled with water and placed on the table in a 
cabinet. Ribbons or bands of tape are then drawn over 
it. at right angles and the ends fastened to the table with 
nails. Thus secured the glass cannot be lifted and the 
top is entirely covered except some small openings. The 
medium is then locked into the cabinet for a few minutes, 
during which he keeps up a continual clapping of his 
hands, but when the cabinet is unlocked the glass is 
empty of water and the general impression is that the 
Spirits drained it. As a matter of fact the medium had 
worked his hands up near his face and shifted from slap- 
ping his hands to slapping his face with one hand. This 
left a hand free and with it he had no difficulty in pro- 
ducing a straw from his pocket and sucking the water 
from the glass. 

Of course these examples are only a few of the many 
means employed by mediums to produce their “mani- 
festations” and take advantage of the credulity of the 
average sitter, but they are enough to show the reader the 
sort of methods practiced and the lengths to which they 
will go in their deceptions. 



CHAPTER VIII 


SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY 

With what is perhaps pardonable pride we point to 
the genius of American enterprise in scientific advance- 
ment but it is with decided chagrin that I repeat that, as 
modern Spiritualism was born in America, so also have 
been most of the phenomena that under the mask of 
Spiritualism have unbalanced so many fine intellects the 
world over. Spirit photography, the most prominent of 
mediumistic phenomena, had its beginning in Boston, 
“Hub” of intellectual development, its coming being 
announced by Dr. Gardner, a devout Spiritualist, who 
discovered a photographer that “in taking a photograph 
of himself, obtained on the same plate a likeness of a 
cousin dead some twelve years before.” 

This was in 1862, but a little more than a decade after 
the original demonstration of so-called Spirit power at 
Hydesville. Fortunately for the success of the new art 
the photographer selected by the inhabitants of “Summer- 
land” * to use for the demonstration of the new phe- 
nomena was a medium and of all the hosts in heaven the 
spirit chosen to be photographed was (singular coinci- 
dence) a cousin of his who had passed the border some 
years previous. 

No sooner had the discovery been announced than 
spiritual enthusiasts in large numbers began flocking to 
the studio of the medium, Mr. William H. Mumler, and 

* Coined by Andrew Jackson Davis, in 1845, and meaning the hereafter. Now 
used frequently by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 



118 A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 

this kept up until evil spirits (?) began to create an atmos- 
phere of doubt and skepticism, whereupon he abruptly took 
himself and his new enterprise to New York City, a pre- 
cipitous plunge presumably prompted by his Spiritual 
guides. 

The change proved to be of great financial benefit to 
Mumler until the ire of the evil Spirits was once more 
aroused and he was arrested on a charge of fraudulent 
transactions. A most interesting and sensational trial 
followed with many noted people appearing as witnesses, 
among them being that prince of showmen, Phineas 
Taylor Bamum, who testified for the prosecution, and 
Judge John W. Edmonds, of the Supreme Court Bench, 
for the defence.* 

Mr. Barnum testified to having spent much time and 
study in the detection of humbugs and had recently 
written a book called “The Humbugs of the World.” He 
knew Mumler only through reputation but had had some 
correspondence with him in regard to his pictures, wishing 
to learn his process and expose it in his book, and some 
pictures which Mumler sent him Barnum paid ten dollars 
apiece for and put in his museum labelled as “Spiritual- 
istic Humbugs.” 

Barnum’s testimony was attacked by Mumler’s lawyer 
who characterized it as being a “very pretty illustration 
of humbug” and added that even if it were true Bamum 
violated the “great precept relating to honor among 
thieves,” but I want to go on record as believing that Mr. 
Barnum told the truth in the Mumler case. 

Judge Edmonds declared on the stand that he had seen 
Spirits although many Spiritualists could not and recalled 
an instance when he was on the bench trying a case 
which the payment of an accident insurance policy was 

* See Appendix F* 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


119 


the issue. He told the court that the whole aspect of the 
case was changed after he saw the spirit of the suicide and 
several questions which this Spirit had suggested were 
put to the witness, the decision being reversed on the 
testimony thus brought out. He also testified to his belief 
that Mumler’ s pictures were genuine photographs of 
Spirits. 

During the trial many methods * of producing Spirit 
“extras” were shown in court by expert photographers 
and the possibilities of the effect being produced by nat- 
ural means proven. The investigators, however, did not 
have their case in good shape. There were strong grounds 
for suspicion but they were unable to present positive 
proof and though the court was morally convinced that 
fraudulent methods had been practiced sufficient evidence 
to convict Mumler was lacking. 

Although acquitted, it is significant that Mumler re- 
fused an offer of five hundred dollars to reproduce his 
pictures in another studio under test conditions and while 
free to resume his business so far as the court was con- 
cerned, with a full harvest of dupes waiting to be fleeced, 
he was nevertheless soon lost to view and seems to have 
vanished entirely after the publication of his book in 
1875. 

Spiritualistic mediumship is not immune to the flattery 
of imitation for even a casual examination of Spiritualistic 
history and development shows that just as soon as a 
medium forms a new alliance with the psychic power 
dispenser and produces phenomena unknown before, 
other mediums immediately begin to produce it also and 
the new manifestation soon becomes epidemic. It was 

* In those days there were no dry plates and with the old ‘‘wet” plates it was 
quite possible to expose a plate, develop it, and then prepare it again and expose 
it the second time* When this was done both pictures appeared in the print. 
Such a plate could be used under the strictest test conditions without detection. 



120 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


so with Spirit photography. No one had thought of such 
a possibility before Mumler invented the mystery but 
talented mediums everywhere when they heard of his 
pictures began to produce them also. Stories of his 
success crossed the sea and Europe discovered equal talent 
there. 

In the summer of 1874 a Parisian photographer by 
the name of Buguet went over to London and attracted 
considerable attention with his Spirit pictures. They 
were of much higher artistic quality than any preceding 
ones and Podmore in his “Modern Spiritualism” tells us 
that: 

“The Spirit faces were in most cases clearly defined, 
and were, in fact, frequently recognized by the sitters, 
and even W. H. Harrison failed to detect any trickery in 
the operation.” 

After a short stay during which his demonstrations 
completely satisfied such men as Rev. Stainton Moses, 
who was liberal with his endorsements, Buguet returned 
to Paris, where the next year he was placed under arrest 
“charged with the fraudulent manufacture of Spirit photo- 
graphs.” Unlike Mumler, his conscience did not prove 
court-proof, or perhaps the evidence against him was such 
that a friendly Spirit advised confession, at any rate he 
told the court that all of his Spirit photographs were the 
result of double exposure. On the strength of this con- 
fession Buguet was convicted and sentenced to one year 
of imprisonment and a fine of five hundred francs. A like 
sentence was given to M. Leymaire, Editor of the Revue 
Spirits, who admitted suggesting to Buguet that he should 
enter the field of Spirit photography. 

The police seized all the paraphernalia in the studio 
of Buguet and took it to court. Amongst it was a lay 
figure and a large stock of heads. These with dolls and 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


121 


assistants at the studio took turns as inspirations for 
Spirit extras. But the real interest of the trial was not 
these revelations, Podmore tells us, for after all Buguet 
did little to improve on the methods inaugurated by his 
predecessors. It is the effect produced on his dupes by 
Buguet’s confession, and the display of his trick appa- 
ratus, which is really worthy of attention. Witness after 
witness — journalist, photographic expert, musician, mer- 
chant, man of letters, optician, ex-professor of history, 
Colonel of Artillery, etc., etc. — came forward to testify 
on behalf of the accused. Some had watched the process 
throughout, and were satisfied that trickery had not been 
practiced. Many had obtained on the plate unmistakable 
portraits of those dear to them, and found it impossible 
to relinquish their faith. One after another these wit- 
nesses were confronted with Buguet, and heard him 
explain how the trick had been done. One after another 
they left the witness-box, protesting that they could not 
doubt the evidence of their own eyes. Here, chosen 
almost at random from many similar accounts, is the 
testimony of M. Dessenon, picture-seller, aged fifty-five. 
After describing how he had obtained in the first instance 
various figures which he could not recognize, he 
continues : — 

“ ‘The portrait of my wife, which I had especially 
asked for, is so like her that when I showed it to one of 
my relatives he exclaimed, “It’s my cousin!” 

“The Court: ‘Was that chance, Buguet?’ 

“Buguet: ‘Yes, pure chance. I had no photograph of 

Mme. Dessenon.’ 

“The Witness: ‘My children, like myself, thought the 

likeness perfect. When I showed them the picture they 
cried, “It’s mama.” A very fortunate chance ! . . . I am 
convinced it was my wife.’ 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“The Court: ‘You see this doll and all the rest of the 

things ?’ 

“ The Witness: ‘There is nothing there in the least 

like the photograph which I obtained.’ ” 

Incidentally there were two or three curious bits of 
evidence on the value of recognition as a test. A police 
officer stated that Buguet showed him a portrait which 
had done duty as the sister of one sitter, the mother of a 
second, and the friend of a third. Again, it came out in 
the evidence that a very clearly defined head (reproduced 
as an illustration to Stainton Moses’ articles in Human 
Nature ) which had been claimed by M. Leymaire as the 
portrait of his almost life long friend, M. Poiret, was 
recognized by another witness as an excellent likeness of 
his father-in-law, still living at Breux, and much annoyed 
at his premature introduction to the Spirit world. 

From Mumler’s first pictures to the present day. Spirit 
photography has played a large part in the field of Spirit- 
ualistic devotion, and innumerable mediums have dis- 
covered that they possessed the same phenomenal power 
for producing the coveted likeness in the form of “extras” 
on the sensitized plate. The art has now advanced to 
such a stage that it is no longer necessary for one to sit 
hut all that is needed is a relic of the departed one, some- 
thing which either belonged or was of especial interest, 
to the person. This relic is photographed and when the 
plate is developed there appears beside it as an “extra” 
the face of the departed; that is, I should say, if your 
imagination is strong enough to see a resemblance to the 
person supposed to be represented. 

Nor is a camera necessary in these days, according to 
Spiritualists. In fact, I am told that it is not necessary 
to even open a box of plates, but that they can be “mag- 
netized” just as they come from the maker provided the 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


123 


box is in the possession of the medium a few days in 
advance of the sitting. This single condition fulfilled and 
the demonstration will follow if the sitters, including the 
nearest relative, pile their hands on top of the medium’s. 
Then to create a solemn atmosphere the sitters are usu- 
ally asked to join in some form of religious devotion 
such as singing “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” or a fervent 
prayer. 

This is the type of performance conducted hy what is 
known as the “Crewe Photographers” and supported and 
defended hy the present day leaders in Spiritualism. This 
Crewe combination of photographers is under the man- 
agement of professional Spiritualists and is an organized 
effort to promulgate this particular phase of Spiritualistic 
phenomena. The group consists of Mr. William Hope 
and Mrs. Buxton, Crewe; Mrs. Deane of London; and 
Mr. Vearnacombe of Bridgewater. 

My friend, Harry Price, attended a sitting given hy 
Hope and tells of the religious exercises as follows: 

“Mrs. Buxton sang several verses of ‘Nearer, My God, 
to Thee,’ after which Mr. Hope made a long impromptu 
prayer in which he thanked God for all our many mercies, 
and hoped He would continue His blessings at the present 
moment. He also craved blessings on our fellow crea- 
tures and friends on the other side and asked assistance in 
the attempt to link up with them, etc. Then Mrs. Buxton 
sang another hymn, after which Mr. Hope picked up the 
package of dry plates, put them between the hands of 
Mrs. Buxton, placed her hands on his, and others in the 
party piled their hands on top. Then we had another 
impromptu prayer hy Mrs. Buxton. Then the Lord’s 
Prayer was sung, and a short hymn concluded the 
service.” 

Can one imagine a sacrilege more revolting than sing- 



124 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


ing hymns, saying prayers, and calling on the Almighty 
for help in such fraudulent work? 

The combination evaded detection and were doing a 
most successful business when in the spring of 1921 , Mr. 
Edward Bush, of the Society of Psychical Research, laid 
a snare into which Hope walked with his eyes wide open. 
Mr. Bush wrote for an appointment under the assumed 
name of “D. Wood,” enclosing a photograph of a son-in- 
law who was alive. On the back of the photograph was 
written: 

“Tell Dad, if anything happens to me, I will try and 
let him have a Spirit Photo. Tell him to shout up to let 
me know where he goes to. 

“Jack Ackroyd.” 

Hope arranged a time for a sitting but returned the 
photo, saying he regretted that it had been sent as it sub- 
jected him to suspicion. When the time for the sitting 
arrived Hope went under control and Mr. Bush manipu- 
lated the plates as he directed but no “extras” appeared. 
On the next day, however, when the plate was developed 
after another sitting, there was an “extra” which proved 
to be a likeness of the son-in-law. Mr. Bush published 
the details of this exposure in a pamphlet and the London 
Truth said editorially: 

“But not only have William Hope and his sister 
medium, Mrs. Buxton, cause to kick themselves at Mr. 
Bush’s exposure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,* Lady Glen- 

* In speaking of Spirit photography', Sir Arthur Conan Doyle usually 
brings up as proof positive, that his fairy photographs are genuine. According 
to the London Star , December 20, 1921, there were many interesting develop- 
ments regarding these: 

“Messrs. Price and Sons, the well known firm of candle makers, inform us 
that the fairies in this photograph are an exact reproduction of a famous poster 
they have used for years, to advertise their night lights. 

“ 'I admit on these fairies there are wings, whereas our fairies have no 
wings,’ said a representative of the firm to a Star reporter, *but, with this ex- 
ception, the figures correspond line for line with our own drawing.’ n 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


125 


Conner, the Rev. Walter Wynn, and many other leading 
lights of the movement have brought these products of 
faith and hope forward as conclusive proof of the con- 
tinuation of existence and the possibility of communica- 
tion with the next world.” 

Later in the same year, Mr. C. R. Mitchell, a former 
leader of the Hackney Spiritualistic Society and well 
known in mediumistic circles in London, was selected to 
“undertake certain tests of a scientific nature for the pur- 
pose of ascertaining the value of these Spirit phenomena.” 
Mr. Mitchell was a photographer and wished to use his 
own plates in the experiment but Mrs. Deane, who was 
to conduct it, refused to let him unless he first left them 
with her for a few days to be magnetized. He objected 
to this and it was finally agreed that he could use his own 
plates provided he would magnetize them himself but 
the results were unsatisfactory. He then purchased from 
Mrs. Deane a package of fresh plates, which, it was 
claimed, had not been opened since it left the manufac- 
turer. The likeness of a soldier appeared on one of these 
which Mr. Mitchell developed himself and he concluded 
that not only had the plates been “magnetized” but that 
they had been exposed in a camera as well. 

The issue of Truth for June 28th, 1922, gives an 
account of the experience of an ex-Indian missionary, 
who, with three others, visited the Crewe photographers 
and sat for Spirit pictures. Four exposures were made 
and Spirit “extras” appeared on two of the plates but the 
men could not remember whether the plates had at any 
time been beyond their control so the missionary arranged 
for another sitting taking the precaution to have his plates 
marked on the comer with a glazier’s diamond. At this 
second sitting one Spirit extra was produced but there 



126 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


was no diamond mark on the plate, positive proof that an 
exchange had been effected. 

During 1922 the Occult Committee of the Magic 
Circle took up the investigation of Spirit photography 
first giving its attention to Mr. Vearncombe who produced 
Spirit extras in connection with some object once in pos- 
session of the deceased. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put 
this committee in touch with the Honorary Secretary of the 
Society for the Study of Supernormal Pictures, Mr. Bar- 
low, and at the latter’s suggestion sent him an unopened 
package of plates for Mr. Vearncombe. Although Bar- 
low objected, “for Vearncombe’s satisfaction, though not 
essential,” the package was enclosed in a lead case. Also 
at Barlow’s suggestion a fee accompanied the package. 
After a month of waiting the committee received a photo- 
graph of the package and on the photograph was a spirit 
message which read: “Barred your side.” 

In order to remove the barrier a fresh package of plates 
was forwarded to Vearncombe, this time in an ordinary 
wrapper. Some months later, after the plates had been 
Spiritually treated by Vearncombe, they were returned 
to the committee. When developed “psychic extras” 
were found on two plates. There was evidence that the 
package had been tampered with and the same spirit had 
been seen on other photographs. 

The committee sent Vearncombe a package of plates 
under an assumed name but received word from him that 
it was not necessary to send plates. That small objects 
which had belonged to the deceased would do and that 
if the proper fee were enclosed photographic prints show- 
ing the “psychic extras” obtained would be supplied. As 
a full compliance with this suggestion would have been 
useless as a test, a box of plates, a small object supposed 
to have belonged to the deceased, and the fee were sent. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


127 


Again Vearncombe protested that he did not treat un- 
opened boxes of plates owing to many failures but offered 
to expose plates on the object which had been supplied. 
He was informed that such exposure would be unsatisfac- 
tory whereupon rather than disappoint his correspondent, 
he consented and forwarded the package with the state- 
ment that he had treated the plates as desired and hoped 
for success. On development a “psychic image” appeared 
on one of the plates but the committee found that the 
wrappers of the package had been unsealed and the plates 
disturbed in their arrangement. 

In order to clinch the results of their trapping Veam- 
combe was informed that the experiment had been a “suc- 
cess” but in order to “avoid criticism” he was asked for 
an assurance that the package had not been tampered 
with. It soon came in the form of a written statement 
that the package had been treated by him and returned 
to the sender as originally sealed when he received it. 

The committee has arranged fourteen tests, twelve of 
which had been violated, and as two or three violations 
would have been sufficient evidence of fraud it did not 
consider more necessary but reported that it had been 
established by the evidence that fraud-proof packages 
produced no results whereas it found “Spirit extras” in 
packages which had been tampered with and that “collect- 
ively the result is damning.” 

The committee next directed its attention to Mrs. Deane 
who, because of “complications from annoying sitters,” 
had given up private practice at her residence and was 
working under engagement with the British College of 
Psychic Science. The Principal of the College, Mr. 
McKenzie, had vouched for her as being absolutely con- 
scientious and straightforward in her work and one fully 
qualified to produce “psychic extras without resort to 



128 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


trickery.” Mr. Harry Price and Mr. Seymour negotiated 
for a private sitting with her. She required that sealed 
plates should he sent several days in advance for “mag- 
netization.” Six plates were exposed at the sitting and 
on most of them “extras” appeared, but evidence was 
obtained that the package had been opened previous to 
the sitting and the plates treated but there had been no 
substitution of plates. 

An effort was made to get more convincing evidence 
and after considerable difficulty a second sitting was ar- 
ranged for. This time the committee went to a manu- 
facturer, whose plates had been mentioned by the college 
people as being preferable, and had a special package 
made up and sealed. In this package each plate was so 
marked that substitution or manipulation were sure to be 
revealed. It was simply fraud-proof. 

At the sitting the regular prayer and hymn singing were 
conducted as usual after which the plates were exposed 
and developed. It was found that the package had been 
opened previously, the top plate removed and another 
substituted for it and on this substituted plate, only, there 
was a “Spirit extra.” At a third sitting a fresh box of 
secretly marked plates were opened in the presence of 
Mrs. Deane. Four plates were loaded into as many sepa- 
rate slides and Mrs. Deane carried them into the adjoin- 
ing studio. On a table in the studio was a hand-bag 
and beside it a hymn book. The hand in which she held 
the four slides momentarily disappeared inside the bag 
while at the same time she picked up the hymn book 
with her other hand. With the hymn book she had picked 
up a duplicate slide which, with a perfectly natural move- 
ment, she added to the three in her other hand one of the 
four marked plates having been dropped in the bag where 
it was found later by one of the investigators who exam- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


129 


ined the hag while Mrs. Deane was absent for a moment. 

Following the customary religious service the four plates 
were exposed and then developed. Three plates which 
had the identifying marks had no Spirit extra, hut the 
fourth plate which had no identification mark did have a 
Spirit form. 

As a result of this investigation the committee found 
that whenever there was an opportunity packages were 
opened and treated, plates substituted, and in the tests 
which followed “Spirit extras” were secured, hut when 
the conditions were absolutely fraud-proof there were no 
“extras,” and so far as it was able to discover all the 
so-called Spirit photography rested on the flimsy founda- 
tion of fraud. 

In December 1921 I tried to visit Mr. Hope and have 
some Spirit photographs made but I was informed that 
his engagements would keep him busy for months and 
that I would have to wait my turn. I then got in touch 
with a friend of mine by the name of DeVega * who lives 
in Glasgow and asked him if he would not see Hope and 
arrange to sit for a photograph. After considerable cor- 
respondence between DeVega and Hope the latter agreed 
to make the photographs provided DeVega would go to 
Crewe. DeVega assented to this, and an appointment 
was made and the sitting took place. The following 
account of DeVega’s experience is taken from a full 
report which he sent me. 

“Dec. 16, 1921. — Arrived at No. 144 Market Street, 
the door was opened by an elderly lady. I asked if Mr. 
Hope was in and presently he came down. I told him 

* I would like to say for the benefit of the reader that DeVega is a skilled 
magical entertainer; has invented a number of legerdemain feats; contributed 
a number of interesting articles to magical publications; is a skilled artist and 
a clever photographer* I was very fortunate in being able to secure a man of 
his ability for the investigation. 



130 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


that a well known member of the Spiritualist Society and 
a man known to be a collector of Spirit photographs sent 
me and that seemed to be sufficient for Mr. Hope. 

“I had brought my own camera along and asked him 
whether the pictures could he taken with it. However, 
he said he used his own camera but would let me in- 
vestigate it all I wanted to. He told me he could 
not possibly photograph me that forenoon as there 
was another gentleman coming but arranged for two 
o’clock. 

“I watched Market Street, from a distance, all the fore- 
noon but saw no one go in. I arrived there promptly 
but it was 2:30 before Mr. Hope arrived. A Mrs. Buxton 
joined us. She, Hope and myself sat around a small 
table. They sang hymns, said a prayer and asked the 
table if all was favorable. 

“At his request I placed my packages of plates on the 
table. They placed their hands above them and sang 
again. Hope suddenly gave a quiver and said, ‘Now we 
will try.’ He showed me the dark room, which is a small 
arrangement of about six feet high, three feet wide and 
five feet long. There were two shelves and on these were 
dusters, cloths, bottles of chemicals, a lamp, etc. The 
lamp is an old affair lit by a candle. The room is so 
very small that when two people are in it there is no 
room to move about. 

“He next showed me the camera and asked me to ex- 
amine it. I gave a glance at it and told him I did not 
doubt his word, which seemed to please him a great deal. 
I thought if it was a fake he would not allow me to exam- 
ine it as closely as he asked me to. It was an old make, one 
fourth plate, studio camera and had no shutter, but worked 
with a cap over a lens (the cap was missing). He next 
showed me the dark slide. It was an old-fashioned. 




SO-CALLED “SPIRIT extra” ok photograph of 


HARRY PRICE MADE DY WILLIAM HOPE OF THE 
CBEAVE CIRCLE 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 131 

double wood end slide. I examined it very closely but 
it was unprepared. 

“The studio itself is a little glass hot-house arrange- 
ment built on to the side of the house. A green curtain 
is hung at the one end at which the sitter sits. 

“We went again into the dark room to load the plates. 
He gave me his slide and told me to leave two of my own 
dark slides down in front of the light as he would try my 
camera too. I opened my plates and placed two in his 
dark slide and closed it. It was placed on the under shelf 
where I could see it faintly. He then asked me to open 
my own two slides slightly and sign my name on them. 
(I signed J. B. Gilchrist.) As I signed them he moved 
the lamp to let me see better. This threw the one fourth 
plate in the shadow. After that he handed me the one 
fourth plate slide to sign the two plates in the same way. 

“I am sure, although l did not actually see him, that 
the slide I loaded, was changed for another one. It was 
too dark to see under the level of the shelf. I, for a mo- 
ment, considered letting my pencil slip and spoil the 
plate and load in another from my packet but I thought 
it advisable to let things go on as I would then see just 
what his usual procedure was. I wondered at the time 
Why 1 could not have been told to take the plates from 
the package, sign them and then place the plates in the 
slide and place the slide in my pocket until they were to 
be exposed. Why was it necessary to sign my own plates 
in my dark slide at all? In fact, there was no necessity 
for me to take my slide in the dark room. 

“We went back into the studio, again I was asked to 
examine the camera. However, I took up my position in 
front of the camera. Mrs. Buxton stood at one side and 
Mr. Hope at the other. The dark focusing cloth was low 
over the lens (the cap being missing) and the slide open. 



132 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Mrs. Buxton and Hope sang a hymn and each took an 
end of the cloth, uncovering the lens. This was repeated 
with other plates as well. 

“Now my camera was set up. I was asked to open the 
slide and show them how the shutter worked. The ex- 
posure was made. He placed his hand in front of 
the camera, covering the lens and asked me to open the 
slide myself as he did not want to touch it. Now why did 
he close the lens in that way? It would have been simpler 
to have pushed down the open front of the slide, closing 
it, but I believe that on his hand was a spot of some 
radiant salt or some such substance that would cause a 
bright spot to appear on the negative, such as appeared 
on that plate when it was developed. Holding his hand 
in front of the lens while an exposure was being made is 
such an unnatural action that I believe that was the cause 
of what he called ‘a Spirit Light,’ when it was developed. 
The next photograph I told him to press the release again 
to close the shutter. He did so. 

“We then adjourned into the dark room to develop the 
plates. The two, one fourth plates were placed by me, 
side by side, in a dish and the two three and a half by two 
and a half in another dish and developed. By pouring the 
developer from one dish to another, one of the one quar- 
ter plates flashed up dark. I remarked that one was com- 
ing up very quickly and he replied that ‘when they come 
up like that it is a good sign for it is very likely 
there is an “extra” on them.’ I said no more but in my 
experience and knowledge of photography, such an oc- 
currence is impossible unless the plates have been previ- 
ously exposed. 

“ The two plates were taken from the same packet , 
loaded into the dark slide at the same time, with the same 
dark room light and the same distance from the light. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


133 


They were then exposed on the same subject immediately 
after each other; the same length of exposure being 
given (/ counted them mentally ) with the same aperture 
of lens. The plates were then placed side by side in the 
same dish of developer and I contend that the image must 
come up at a uniform speed on both plates and that it is 
impossible for one to flash up before the other and darken 
all over unless it was previously exposed, especially 
when there was no variation in the light when the ex- 
posure was made, it being three P.M., December 16, 
clear sky, no sunshine. 

“An ‘extra’ did appear on this (one fourth plate). It 
is a clean shaven face above mine and drapery hanging 
from it. On my own three and a half by two and a half a 
light splotch is over my face. Mrs. Buxton informed me 
that it was a ‘Spirit light’ but Mr. Hope believed he saw 
the faint features of a face in it.” 

While in Denver, Colorado, in May, 1923, I called one 
morning on Mr. Alexander Martin, whom Sir Arthur 
Conan Doyle had told me was a noted psychic photogra- 
pher and a very wonderful man in his particular line. 
Doyle himself had called on Martin the day before but 
as Martin did not feel in the mood there had been no 
demonstration. In this Sir Arthur was no more unfor- 
tunate than Hyslop, the eminent Psychic investigator, who, 
according to Sir Arthur, had made a special journey from 
England to Denver in order to have a seance with Martin 
but had not been successful. 

Martin lived about fifteen minutes out of town by taxi. 
I took with me my chief assistant, James Collins, so I 
would have a witness if anything of a psychic nature oc- 
curred. Collins had my camera as I wanted at least to 
get a picture of Martin. We found him standing in the 
doorway of a rear building and after I introduced myself 



134 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


he seemed cordial. I showed him some Spirit photographs 
which I had with me and after a few minutes talk I asked 
him if he was willing that Collins should take a snap-shot 
at us. He thought 1 was asking for a sitting and replied 
that he did not feel good and besides had been engaged to 
take the pictures of the children in two schools. I kept 
on talking in my most entertaining manner and before 
long he invited us into the house saying he would photo- 
graph both of us. Meanwhile Collins had secured five 
snap-shots at close range without Martin knowing it. 

When we went into the house I walked right into the 
dark room but Martin called me saying: 

“Now don’t you go in there, just wait a minute.” 

While we waited outside Martin spent about eight min- 
utes in the dark room. Then he came out and we went 
into his studio, a simple room with a black background. 
He had me sit down and placed Collins behind me on my 
right. As a test I told Collins to step over to the other 
side as it might look better. Then when he had done so 
1 turned to Martin and asked: 

“Is that all right or is it better to have him take the 
original position?” 

“I think it would be nicer if he stood where he was in 
the first place,” Martin replied. 

This led me to think he was keeping that side of the 
plate clean for something to appear. There was consid- 
erable light in the room and Martin pulled a dark screen 
on our right explaining that he did not need much light 
for the psychic stuff, then putting a shade on his eyes 
he turned to us and said: 

“Now keep quiet and I will try and do something.” 
When he uncovered the lens I counted the time of the 
exposure which was about fifteen seconds. As he covered 
it again he said to us: 




HOUDINI A\’D ALEXANDER MAHTIX 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


135 


“That is all I can do to-day. Now I must hurry away.” 

We thanked him and as we were going out I asked him 
if he had any photographs we could see. He went into 
an adjoining room but closed the door so we had no op- 
portunity to look in. When he came out he had four 
photographs which he allowed me to keep but he would 
not write on them who they were of. 

The next day I went to see him again and he gave me 
another seance. This time he said he would have to cut 
a plate and he gave me a book to read while I waited. In 
looking for a piece of paper on which to write my address 
he picked up a lot of newspapers and I noticed some scien- 
tific publications systematically inserted between the leaves 
which led me to think he was trying to hide his knowledge 
and wished to appear as a simple minded old man who 
knew but little about photography. 

I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. Martin’s Spirit 
photographs were simply double exposures. I think his 
method was to cut out various pictures, place them on a 
background and make an exposure. His plates were then 
ready for his next sitter, which in the above instance was 
myself. Being an expert photographer he might have 
used the original wet plate method of making an exposure, 
developing it, washing the emulsion off the plate and refin- 
ishing it with a new emulsion but I am convinced that 
the two Spirit photos which he made of me were simply 
double exposures. 

The technique of photography does not trouble the 
psychic operator. He has no regard for the laws of light 
or chemistry. The fact that in all of his pictures the Spir- 
its appear to be perfectly conscious of posing does not dis- 
concert him, nor is he disturbed because they always 
appear as they were in life. How much more interesting 
it would be and how much more such photographs would 



136 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


add to our knowledge and aid the advancement of science 
if once in a while the Spirits would permit themselves to 
be snapped while engaged in some Spiritual occupation. 

From a logical, rational point of view. Spirit photog- 
raphy is a most barefaced imposition and stands as evi- 
dence of the credulity of those who are in sympathy with 
the superstitions of occultism. It is also evidence of how 
unscrupulous mediums become and how calloused their 
consciences. 

In this country there is no such organized group of 
Spirit photographers as the Crewe photographers in Eng- 
land. Since Mumler’s narrow escape from deserved pun- 
ishment and his disappearance there have been few who 
had the courage to operate as boldly as he did. The most 
conspicuous one practicing at the present time is Dr. (?) 
W. M. Keeler, who according to Spiritualistic publications 
has a nerve and conscience equal to any psychic under- 
taking. 

With Spirit photography as with all other so-called 
psychic marvels, there never has been, nor is now, any 
proof of genuineness beyond the claim made by the 
medium. In each and every case it is a simple question 
of veracity, and when the most sincere believers in Spirit- 
ualism unhesitatingly admit, as they do, that all mediums 
at times resort to fraud and lying, what dependence can 
possibly be placed in any statement they make? 

There can be no better evidence of rottenness in the 
whole structure than the fact that for upwards of forty 
years there have been standing offers of money in amounts 
ranging from five hundred to five thousand dollars for a 
single case of so-called phenomena which could be proven 
actually psychic. Knowing the character of mediums 
as I do I claim if proof were possible there is not a single 






A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


137 


medium, including Spirit photographers, who would not 
have jumped at the chance to win such a prize. If there 
are any who are operating honestly let them come forward 
with proof and take the reward. 



CHAPTER IX 


SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE 

Spiritualism has claimed among its followers numbers 
of brilliant minds — scientists, philosophers, professionals 
and authors. Whether these great minds have been mis- 
directed, whether they have followed the subject because 
they were convinced fully of its truth, or whether they 
have been successfully hoodwinked by some fraudulent 
medium, are matters of conjecture and opinion; neverthe- 
less they have been the means of bringing into the ranks 
of Spiritualism numbers of those who allow themselves 
to be led by minds greater and more powerful than their 
own. 

Such a one is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His name 
comes automatically to the mind of the average human 
being to-day at the mention of Spiritualism. No statis- 
tician could fathom the influence he has exerted through 
his lectures and his writings or number the endless chain 
he guides into a belief in communication with the Realm 
Beyond. His faith and belief and confidence in the move- 
ment have been one of the greatest assets of present-day 
believers and whatever one’s views on the subject, it is 
impossible not to respect the belief of this great author 
who has wholeheartedly and unflinchingly thrown his life 
and soul into the conversion of unbelievers. Sir Arthur 
believes. In his great mind there is no doubt. 

He is a brilliant man, a deep thinker, well versed in 
every respect, and comes of a gifted family. His grand- 

138 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


139 


father, John Doyle, was born in Dublin in 1797. He 
won popularity and fame in London with his caricatures 
of prominent people. Many of his original drawings are 
now preserved in the museum under the title “H. B. 
Caricatures.” He died in 1868. An uncle of Sir Arthur’s 
was the famous “Dicky Doyle,” the well-known cartoonist 
of Punch and designer of the familiar cover of that 
magazine. In his later years he became prominent as an 
illustrator, making drawings for The Newcomes in 
1853, and becoming especially successful in illustrating 
such fairy stories as Hunt’s “Jar of Honey,” Ruskin’s 
“King of the Golden River,” and Montelbas’ “Fairy 
Tales of all Nations.” The fact that he leaned toward 
Spiritualism is not generally known. Sir Arthur’s father, 
Charles A. Doyle, was also an artist of great talent though 
not in a commercial way. His home life is beautiful and 
Lady Doyle has told me on numerous occasions that he 
never loses his temper and that his nature is at all times 
sunshiny and sweet. His children are one hundred per 
cent children in every way and it is beautiful to note the 
affection between the father, mother and the children. 
He is a great reader who absorbs what he reads but he be- 
lieves what he sees in print only if it is favorable to 
Spiritualism. 

The friendship of Sir Arthur and myself dates back to 
the time when I was playing the Brighton Hippodrome, 
Brighton, England. We had been corresponding and had 
discussed through the medium of the mail, questions re- 
garding Spiritualism. He invited Mrs. Houdini and my- 
self to the Doyle home in Crowborough, England, and in 
that way an acquaintanceship was begun which has con- 
tinued ever since. Honest friendship is one of life’s most 
precious treasures and I pride myself in thinking that we 
have held that treasure sacred in every respect. During 


140 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


all these years we have exchanged clippings which we 
thought might be of mutual interest and on a number of 
occasions have had an opportunity to discuss them in 
person. Our degree of friendship may be judged best 
from the following letter of Sir Arthur’s. 

“15 Buckingham Palace Mansion, 

S. W. 1 

“March 8, 1923. 

“My dear Houdini: — 

For goodness’ sake take care of those dangerous stunts 
of yours. You have done enough of them. I speak be- 
cause I have just read of the death of the “Human Fly.” * 
Is it worth it? 

“Yours very sincerely, 

(Signed) A. Conan Doyle.” 

It would be difficult to determine just when Sir Arthur 
and I first discussed Spiritualism, but from that talk to 
the present we have never agreed upon it. Our viewpoints 
differ; we do not believe the same thing. I know that he 
treats Spiritualism as a religion. He believes that it is 
possible and that he can communicate with the dead. 
According to his marvellous analytical brain he has had 
proof positive of this. There is no doubt that Sir Arthur 
is sincere in his belief and it is this sincerity which has 
been one of the fundamentals of our friendship. I have 
respected everything he has said and I have always been 

* On March 5, 1923, Harry F. Young, known as ‘‘The Human Fly,” fell ten 
stories from a window ledge of the Hotel Martinqiue, New York City. He suc- 
cumbed before he reached the hospital. 

For the benefit of those who do not know, “A Human Fly” is an acrobat 
who makes a specialty of scaling tall buildings, simply clinging to the apertures 
or crevices of the outward architecture of such building for the edification of 
an assembled throng, for which he receives a plate collection, a salary or is 
engaged especially for publicity purposes. It is not a very lucrative profession 
Q#d its dangers are many. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


141 


unbiased, because at no time have I refused to follow the 
subject with an open mind. I cannot say the same for 
him for he has refused to discuss the matter in any other 
voice except that of Spiritualism and in all our talks 
quoted only those who favored it in every way, and if 
one does not follow him sheep-like during his investiga- 
tions then he is blotted out forever so far as Sir Arthur 
is concerned. Unfortunately he uses the reasoning, so 
common among Spiritualists, that no matter how often 
mediums are caught cheating he believes the only reason 
for it is that they have overstepped their bounds and 
resorted to trickery in an effort to convince. I wonder if 
some day Sir Arthur will forget that he is a Spiritualist 
and argue a case of trickery with the sound logic of an 
outsider. I firmly believe that if he ever does he will see 
and acknowledge some of his errors. I am ready to believe 
in Sir Arthur’s teachings if he can convince me beyond the 
shadow of a doubt that his demonstrations are genuine. 

There is no doubt in my mind, Sir Arthur believes im- 
plicitly in the mediums with whom he has convened and 
he knows positively, in his own mind, they are all genuine: 
Even if they are caught cheating he always has some sort 
of an alibi which excuses the medium and the deed. He 
insists that the Fox Sisters were genuine, even though 
both Margaret and Katie confessed to fraud and explained 
how and why they became mediums and the methods 
used by them to produce the raps. 

“Like Caesar’s wife — always above suspicion,” Hope 
and Mrs. Dean pass in his category as genuine me- 
diums. He has often told me that Palladino * and Home 

* On April 14, 1922, in New York City, Sir Arthur, according to his book, 
“Our American Adventure,” attended a seance given by a young Italian by the 
name of Pecoraro. During the seance the name Palladino was given and he 
was told that the famous medium was present. A voice from the cabinet, 
supposedly Palladino’s, said, “I, who used to call back the Spirits, now come 



142 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


some day would be canonized for the great work they did in 
the interest of Spiritualism, even though they were both 
exposed time and time again. In all gravity he would 
say to me, “Look what they did to Joan of Arc.” To Sir 
Arthur it is a matter of most sacred moment. It is his 
religion, and he would invariably tell me what a cool 
observer he was and how hard it would be to fool him, or 
in any way deceive him.* He told me that he did not 
believe any of “the nice old lady mediums” would do 
anything wrong and it was just as unlikely for some old 
gentleman, innocent as a child unborn, to resort to 
trickery. But there comes to my mind the notorious Mrs. 
Catherine Nicol and her two daughters who were con- 
tinuously getting in and out of the law’s net, usually 
breaking the heads of a few detectives in the process. 
Among the “nice old lady” mediums might be mentioned 
a prominent medium of Boston who was accused of taking 
unlawfully from one of her believers over eight thousand 
dollars in cash. 

Another case was that of a medium who received 
$1,000 from a man in Baltimore for the privilege of a 
few minutes’ chat with the Spirit of his dead wife. He 
later sued her for fraud. Later she was exposed while 
giving a seance in Paris, but after a few years she appeared 
in New York City. 

At this time Asst. District Attorney Krotel asked that 
she be brought into court to answer to a charge of selling 
California mining stock to her followers through the advice 

back as a Spirit myself,” to which Sir Arthur answered, “Palladino, we send 
you our love and our best encouragement*” However, the force was broken by 
“the absurd and vile dancing of the table,” and there was no physical manifesta- 
tion. This shows Sir Arthur’s will to excuse even Palladino, who was on numer- 
ous occasions exposed as a fraudulent medium. 

* ALL Spiritualists say that. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 143 

of certain disembodied Spirits. The stock was found to 
be worthless. 

There was also a woman, who was arrested and 
convicted for vagrancy in Seattle and numerous other 
cases, such as that of Katie King of Philadelphia in 1875; 
however, no matter how many cases I cited, it did not seem 
to make any impression on Sir Arthur. 

I had known for some time that a number of people 
wanted to draw Doyle into a controversy. When I saw 
Sir Arthur I told him to be careful of his statements and 
explained a number of pitfalls he could avoid. Neverthe- 
less, despite my warnings, he would say : “That’s all right, 
Houdini, don’t worry about me, I am well able to take 
care of myself. They cannot fool me.” To which I would 
reply he had no idea of the subtleness of some of the 
people who were trying to draw his fire. 

When I called Sir Arthur’s attention to the number of 
people who have gone crazy on the subject because of 
persistent reading, continuous attendance at seances and 
trying automatic writing, his answer would be: “People 
have been going mad * for years, and you will find on 
investigation that many go mad on other subjects besides 
Spiritualism.” On being reminded that most of these 
people hear voices and see visions, he denied that they 
were hallucinations, and insisted that he had spoken 
to different members of his family, f 

I recall several flagrant instances in which Sir Arthur’s 

* Dr. A. T. Schofield wrote in the Daily Sketch , February 9, 1920, that thou- 
sands of persons were estimated by a famous mental specialist to have been 
driven to the asylum through Spiritualism. A truly pitiful record. 

f Letter from Sir Arthur to H. H. (dated April 2, 1920) t “I have had very 
conclusive evidence since my two books were written. Six times I have spoken 
face to face with my son, twice with my brother and once with my nephew, all 
beyond doubt in their own voices and on private matters, so for me there is not, 
nor has been for a long time, any doubt. I know it is true, but we can’t com- 
municate that certainty to others. It will come— or not, according to how far 
we work for it. It is the old axiom, ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ ” 


144 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


faith has, I think, misguided him. One particular time 
was when he attended a public seance by a lady known 
as “The Medium in the Mask.” Among those present at 
the time was Lady Glenconner, Sir Henry Lunn and Mr. 
Sidney A. Mosley, a special representative of a newspaper. 

According to reports, the medium wore a veil like a 
“yashmak.” She appeared very nervous. A number of 
articles, including a ring that had belonged to Sir Arthur’s 
deceased son, were put in a box, and the medium correctly 
gave the initials on the ring, although Sir Arthur said 
that they could hardly be discerned, even in a good light, 
they were so worn off.* 

Later in describing another article, the medium said the 
words, “Murphy” and “button” and it was afterwards 
explained that “Murphy’s button” was a surgical opera- 
tion term. She said that the person described would die 
as a result of the operation. Unfortunately, for the me- 
dium, no one present knew of such a case and yet, Sir 
Arthur described this seance as very clever A 

The “Masked Lady” was sponsored by a theatrical 
agent and illusionist and all proceedings of the seances 
were brought to light in a suit against Mr. George Gross- 
man and Mr. Edward Laurillard, theatrical producers, to 
recover damages for breach of agreement to place a West 
End theatre at his disposal. 

Accounts of mediums by the name of “Thompson” 

* Report of trial before Mr. Justice Darling — Morning Po*t f July 16, 1920. 

f I have it on the positive word of Stuart Cumberland, who was at one of 
the seances of the “Masked Medium” and he gave me definite specifications and 
positive facts of the reading of the initials in the ring submitted by Sir Arthur 
Conan Doyle to the “Masked Medium” whom he said possessed remarkable 
powers. Stuart Cumberland told me a number of ways this feat could be done. 
Among them, the black boxes were exchanged surreptitiously in the dark, and 
then brought back. It is an easy thing to present a box for inspection and yet 
have false compartments in it so that the contents will fall out. It was only 
after the methods were told innumerable times to Sir Arthur that he condemned 
it as a fraud. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


145 


have misled several people. There is a Thompson of 
New York and a Thomson of Chicago. Sir Arthur had a 
seance with the Thompsons of New York and according 
to all the news clippings I have had they claimed to have 
brought back his mother. In fact it was stated that he 
asked permission to kiss his mother’s hand. 

The Thomsons got into trouble in Chicago and New 
Orleans also.* As a matter of fact I was in Chicago 
when their trial took place. I had been present at two 
of their seances. The first was in New York at the 
Morosco Theatre and I had all I could do to keep J. F. 
Rinns from breaking up the performance. The second 
was in Chicago. It was a special seance given after my 
performance at the Palace Theatre. I was accompanied by 
H. H. Windsor, Publisher and Editor of Popular Me- 
chanics; Oliver R. Barrett, a prominent member of the 
bar; Mr. Husband Manning, author; and Leonard Hicks, 
a well-known hotel proprietor. Among others present at 
the seance were Cyrus McCormick, Jr., Muriel McCor- 
mick, and Mrs. McCormick McClintoclc. We witnessed 
a number of unsatisfactory phenomena and afterwards 
adjourned to the home of Cyrus McCormick and discussed 
the seance, being unanimously of the opinion that it was a 
glaring fraud just as I had believed the one in New York 
to be. 

At the Morosco Theatre, New York City, the Thomsons 
made the broad statement that they had been tested by 
Stead and Sir Oliver Lodge and at a special seance he had 
come out and publicly endorsed Mrs. Thomson as being 
genuine. The following letter not only disproves this 

* According to the New Orleans Times-Picaywne, March 9, 1923, Clarence 
Thomson, self-styled missionary. President and member of the Board of Di- 
rectors of the International Psychical Association, was fined $25 and sentenced 
to serve 30 days in jail. He admitted he had been arrested in Chicago and 
Kansas City for conducting seances, but said he had been honorably discharged* 



146 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


but explains the feeling of an active Spiritualist toward 
the Thomsons. 


“Normanton, 

“Lake, 

“Salisbury. 

“7th January 1921. 

“Dear Mr. Houdini: — 

“It is a pleasure to hear from you, and I thank you for 
asking the question about the Thomsons. I have replied 
to one or two other queries of the same kind, but I would 
be grateful if you would make it known that any statement 
that I have vouched for their genuineness, is absolutely 
false. 

“I only saw them once, at a time when they called 
themselves Tomson. It was at Mr. Stead’s house, at his 
urgent request. I considered the performance fraudulent, 
but the proof was not absolutely complete because the 
concluding search was not allowed, and the gathering 
dispersed in disorder, or at least with some heat. 

“I felt sorry at this termination, and it is just possible 
that Thomson genuinely thought I was favourably im- 
pressed. That is the charitable view to take, but it is not 
the true view, and Mr. Stead was annoyed with me because 
of my skeptical attitude. (He has since admitted to me, 
from the other side, that he was wrong and I was right; 
bringing the subject up spontaneously. This latter state- 
ment, however, is not evidence.) 

“What I should like the public to be assured of, is that 
I was not favourably impressed, and never vouched for 
them in any way. 

“I am afraid I must assume that Thomson is aware 
of that, and therefore is not acting in good faith, because 
once in England the same sort of statement was made, 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 147 

either at Leicester or at Nottingham I think, and I 
wrote to a paper to contradict it. 

“With all good wishes believe me, 

“Faithfully yours, 

(Signed) “Oliver Lodge.” 

Sir Arthur personally told me that he was convinced 
of the genuineness of the Welsh miners of Cardiff, or 
Thomas Brothers. Stuart Cumberland who was infinitely 
my superior in investigation (he had a start of 20 years) 
told me that there wasn’t a chance of the Thomas Brothers 
being genuine, and related how, owing to the great interest 
of Sir Arthur in them, the London Daily Express even- 
tually induced them to hold a seance before a committee 
of investigators. Cumberland was to have been one of 
the committee, but the mediums refused to allow him to 
be “Among those present.” As they refused to proceed 
if Cumberland was admitted, it was thought advisable to 
eliminate him. Before leaving, Cumberland arranged the 
musical instruments that were used and instructed the in- 
vestigating committee how to detect fraud. The feature 
of the seance was the passing along in the circle, of a 
button and a pair of suspenders, which were thrown on 
the knees of a news Editor present. I ask the common- 
sense reader what benefit this would be — to project a 
button clear across the room and to find a pair of suspen- 
ders on a sitter’s knee? If there is any object lesson in 
this, please let me know! 

At the seance, Lady Doyle was asked whether she was 
cold, on answering in the affirmative a holland jacket 
which had been worn by the medium was dropped in her 
lap. The Thomas Brothers claimed this had been done by 
the Spirits. When the seance was over, the medium was 
found bound but minus his coat. 



148 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


When I quizzed Sir Arthur about the manner in which 
the Thomas Brothers of Cardiff were bound during a 
seance which he attended, he told me that they were se- 
cured so tightly that it was impossible for them to move 
as they were absolutely helpless. I told him that did not 
make it genuine, for any number of mediums had been 
tied the same way and had managed to free themselves. 
He replied that I might be able to release myself by nat- 
ural means, but that mediums do not have to, as they 
always receive Spiritual help. Maybe so, but I should 
like, sometime, to tie them myself and see whether the 
Spirits could release them under test conditions.* 

I reminded Sir Arthur of the Davenport Brothers and 
called to his attention the fact that they were able to 
release themselves. Sir Arthur feels very strongly in 
the matter of the Davenport Brothers and although I 
have told him and proven to him that I was a pupil of 
Ira Erastus Davenport f and that Ira personally told me 
that they did not claim to be Spiritualists and their per- 
formances were not given in the name of Spiritualism, Sir 
Arthur insists that they were Spiritualists and has strongly 
said that if they did their performances under any other 
name, then Ira was “not only a liar, but a blasphemer as 
he went around with Mr. Ferguson, a clergyman, and 
mixed it all up with religion.” 

I want to go on record that to the best of my knowledge 
and belief I never stated that Sir Arthur endorsed the 
mediumship of the New York Thompsons. I did say there 
were full page articles t where he was illustrated as ac- 
cepting the genuineness of the materialization of his 
mother. I never claimed that Sir Arthur’s son or brother 

* Other performers are doing this feat. I have performed it regularly for 
thirty years without any supernatural power whatever, 
f See Davenport chapter. 

% These articles were syndicated, New York American, Sept. 3rd, 1922. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


149 


came through the Thomas mediums in Cardiff. I did 
state that Sir Arthur said they were genuine and that they, 
the mediums, were helpless to move because he had tied 
them and in his judgment if they were tied in my presence 
I would he convinced of their genuineness. I wish to call 
attention to the fact that in a letter written by the late 
Stuart Cumberland he agreed with me that there was not 
a vestige of truth in the mediumship of the Thomas 
Brothers, and regarding Sir Arthur’s endorsement of the 
“Masked Lady,” I did not say he endorsed her although 
I should judge from newspaper * accounts he seemed very 
much impressed. 

Sir Arthur has rarely given me an opportunity to deny 
or affirm any statement. In fact one of our sore points 
of discussion has been the matter of being quoted, or 
misquoted,! in newspapers or periodicals and it seems 
that Sir Arthur always believes everything I have been 
quoted as having said. When I was in Oakland, Califor- 
nia, I was interviewed by a Mr. Henderson of the Oakland 
Tribune. I gave him some material to work on, enough 
for one article from which, to my surprise, he wrote a 
series of eight articles enlarging and misquoting to an 
“nth” degree. Sir Arthur took exception to a number of 
statements which I was supposed to have made and he 
replied to them caustically through the press and then 
sent me the following letter in explanation. 

“The Ambassador 
“Los Angeles 

“May 23, 1923. 

“My dear Houdini: — 

“I have had to handle you a little roughly in the Oak- 
land Tribune because they send me a long screed under 

* Morning Post, July 16, 1920. 

f See Appendix G. 



150 A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 

quotation marks, so it is surely accurate. It is so full of 
errors that I don’t know where to begin. I can’t imagine 
why you say such wild things which have no basis in 
fact at all. I put the Thompsons down as humbugs. I 
never heard of my son or brother through the Thomas 
brothers. They were never exposed. I never said that 
Masked Medium was genuine. I wish you would refer 
to me before publishing such injurious stuff which I have 
to utterly contradict. I would always tell you the exact 
facts as I have done with the Zancigs. 

“Yours sincerely, 

“A. Conan Doyle.” 

“I hate sparring with a friend in public, but what can I 
do when you say things which are not correct, and which 
I have to contradict or else they go by default. It is the 
same with all this ridiculous stuff of Rinn’s. Unless I 
disprove it, people imagine it is true. 

“A. C. D.” 

At the written invitation of Sir Arthur and Lady Doyle 
Mrs. Houdini and I visited them while they were stopping 
at the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City. One day as 
Sir Arthur, Mrs. Houdini and I were sitting on the sand 
skylarking with the children Sir Arthur excused himself 
saying that he was going to have his usual afternoon nap. 
He left us hut returned in a short time and said “Houdini, 
if agreeable, Lady Doyle will give you a special seance, as 
she has a feeling that she might have a message come 
through. At any rate, she is willing to try,” and turning 
to Mrs. Houdini he said, “we would like to be alone. You 
do not mind if we make the experiment without you.” 
Smilingly, my good little wife said, “Certainly not, go 
right ahead, Sir Arthur; I will leave Houdini in your 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


151 


charge and I know that he will he willing to go to the 
seance.” Doyle said, “You understand, Mrs. Houdini, 
that this will he a test to see whether we can make any 
Spirit come through for Houdini, and conditions may 
prove better if no other force is present.” 

Before leaving with Sir Arthur, Mrs. Houdini cued 
me. We did a second sight or mental performance years 
ago and still use a system or code whereby we can speak to 
each other in the presence of others, even though to all 
outward appearances we are merely talking, pointing or 
doing the most innocent looking things, but which have 
different meanings to us. 

In that manner Mrs. Houdini told me that on the night 
previous she had gone into detail with Lady Doyle about 
the great love I bear for my Mother. She related to her 
a number of instances, such as, my returning home from 
long trips, sometimes as far away as Australia, and spend- 
ing months with my Mother and wearing only the clothes 
that she had given me, because I thought it would please 
her and give her some happiness. My wife also remarked 
about my habit of laying my head on my Mother’s breast, 
in order to hear her heart heat. Just little peculiarities 
that mean so much to a mother and son when they love 
one another as we did. 

I walked with Sir Arthur to the Doyles’ suite. Sir 
Arthur drew down the shades so as to exclude the bright 
light. We three, Lady Doyle, Sir Arthur and I, sat 
around the table on which were a number of pencils and a 
writing pad, placing our hands on the surface of the table. 

Sir Arthur started the seance with a devout prayer. I 
had made up my mind that I would be as religious as it 
was within my power to be and not at any time did I scoff 
at the ceremony. I excluded all earthly thoughts and 
gave my whole soul to the seance. 


152 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


I was willing to believe, even wanted to believe. It was 
weird to me and with a beating heart I waited, hoping that 
I might feel once more the presence of my beloved Mother. 
If there ever was a son who idolized and worshipped his 
Mother, whose every thought was for her happiness and 
comfort, that son was myself. My Mother meant my life, 
her happiness was synonymous with my peace of mind. 
For that reason, if no other, I wanted to give my very 
deepest attention to what was going on. It meant to me 
an easing of all pain that I had in my heart. I especially 
wanted to speak to my Mother, because that day, June 1 7, 
1922, was her birthday.* I was determined to embrace 
Spiritualism if there was any evidence strong enough to 
down the doubts that have crowded my brain for the past 
thirty years. 

Presently, Lady Doyle was “seized by a Spirit.” Her 
hands shook and beat the table, her voice trembled and 
she called to the Spirits to give her a message. Sir 
Arthur tried to quiet her, asked her to restrain herself, 
but her hand thumped on the table, her whole body 
shook and at last, making a cross at the head of the page, 
started writing. And as she finished each page. Sir 
Arthur tore the sheet off and handed it to me. I sat 
serene through it all, hoping and wishing that I might 
feel my mother’s presence. There wasn’t even a sem- 
blance of it. Everyone who has ever had a worshipping 
Mother and has lost earthly touch, knows the feeling 
which will come over him at the thought of sensing her 
presence. 

The letter which follows, purported to have come from 
my Mother, I cannot, as much as I desire, accept as hav- 

•This was not known to Lady Doyle. If it had been my Dear Mother’s 
Spirit communicating a message, she, knowing her birthday was my most holy 
holiday, surely would have commented on it. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 153 

ing been written or inspired by the soul or Spirit of my 
sweet Mother. 

“Oh, my darling, thank God, thank God, at last I’m 
tlirough — I’ve tried, oh, so often — now I am happy. 
Why, of course I want to talk to my boy — my own beloved 
boy — Friends, thank you, with all my heart for this.” — 
“You have answered the cry of my heart — and of his — 
God bless him — a thousandfold for all his life for me — 
never had a Mother such a son — tell him not to grieve — 
soon he’ll get all the evidence he is so anxious for — Yes 
we know — tell him I want him to try and write in his 
own home. It will be far better.” 

“I will work with him — he is so, so dear to me — I am 
preparing so sweet a home for him in which some day iff 
God’s good time he will come to it, is one of my great 
joys preparing for our future.” 

“I am so happy in this life — it is so full and joyous — 
my only shadow has been that my beloved one hasn’t 
known how often I have been with him all the while, all 
the while — here away from my heart’s darling — com- 
bining my work thus in this life of mine.” 

“It is so different over here, so much larger and bigger 
and more beautiful — so lofty — all sweetness around one 
— nothing that hurts and we see our beloved ones on 
earth — that is such a joy and comfort to us — Tell him I 
love him more than ever — the years only increase it — 
and his goodness fills my soul with gladness and thank- 
fulness. Oh, just this, it is me. I want him only to 
know that — that — I have bridged the gulf — that is what 
I wanted, oh, so much — Now I can rest in peace — how 
soon — ” 

“I always read my beloved son’s mind — his dear mind 
— there is so much I want to say to him — but — I am 
almost overwhelmed hy this joy of talking to him once 



154 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


more — it is almost too much to get through — the joy of 
it — thank you, thank you, friend, with all my heart for 
what you have done for me this day — God bless you, too. 
Sir Arthur, for what you are doing for us — for us, over 
here — who so need to get in touch with our beloved ones 
on the earth plane — ” 

“If only the world knew this great truth — how different 
life would be for men and women — Go on let nothing stop 
you — great will he your reward hereafter — Good-by — I 
brought you, Sir Arthur, and my son together — I felt you 
were the only man who might help us to pierce this veil 
— and I was right — Bless him, bless him, bless him, 1 say, 
from the depths of my soul — he fills my heart and later 
we shall be together — Oh so happy — a happiness awaits 
him that he has never dreamed of — tell him I am with 
him — just tell him that I’ll soon make him know how 
close I am all the while — his eyes will soon be opened — 
Good-by again — God’s blessing on you all.” 

In the case of my seance, Sir Arthur believed that due 
to the great excitement it was a direct connection. 

The more so do I hesitate to believe and accept the 
above letter because, although my sainted mother had 
been in America for almost fifty years, she could not 
speak, read nor write English hut Spiritualists claim that 
when a medium is possessed by a Spirit who does not 
speak the language, she automatically writes, speaks or 
sings in the language of the deceased; however, Sir Arthur 
has told me that a Spirit becomes more educated the 
longer it is departed and that my blessed Mother had been 
able to master the English language in Heaven. 

After the purported letter from my Mother had been 
written and I had read it over very carefully, Sir Arthur 
advised me to follow out the advice, given by my Mother, 
— to try to write when I reached home. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


155 


I picked up a pencil in a haphazard manner and said, 
“Is there any particular way in which I must hold this 
pencil when I want to write, or does it write automati- 
cally?” 1 then wrote the name of “ Powell ” entirely 
of my own volition . Sir Arthur jumped up excitedly and 
read what I had just written. He saw the word “Powell” 
and said, “The Spirits have directed you in writing the 
name of my dear fighting partner in Spiritualism, Dr. 
Ellis Powell, who has just died in England. I am the 
person he is most likely to signal to, and here is his name 
coming through your hands. Truly Saul is among the 
Prophets.” 

I must emphatically state that this name was written 
entirely of my own volition and in full consciousness. 
I had in my mind, my friend Frederick Eugene Powell, the 
American Magician, with whom at the time I was having a 
great deal of correspondence regarding a business propo- 
sition which has since been consummated. There is not 
the slightest doubt of it having been more than a deliber- 
ate mystification on my part, or let us say a kindlier word 
regarding my thoughts and call it “coincidence.” 

A few days later Sir Arthur sent me the following letter 
in reference to my explanation of the writing of the name, 
“Powell.” 

“The Ambassador, 

New York, 

June 20th, 1922. 

“My dear Houdini: — 

“. . . No, the Powell explanation, won’t do. Not 
only is he the one man who would wish to get me, but in 
the evening, Mrs. M., the lady medium, got, “there is a 
man here. He wants to say that he is sorry he had to 
speak so abruptly this afternoon.” The message was then 
broken by your Mother’s renewed message and so we got 


156 A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 

no name. But it confirms me in the belief that it was 
Powell. However, you will no doubt test your powers 
further. 

(Signed) “A. Conan Doyle.” 

I had written an article for the New York Sun , October 
30, 1922, which gave my views in reference to Spiritualism 
and at the same time answered the challenge offered by 
the General Assembly of Spiritualists of New York State. 
This had been called to the attention of Sir Arthur, who 
wrote as follows: 

“Windlesham, 

Crowborough, 

Sussex. 

November 19, 1922. 

“My dear Houdini: — 

“They sent me the New York Sun with your article and 
no doubt wanted me to answer it, but I have no fancy for 
sparring with a friend in public, so I took no notice. 

“But none the less, I felt rather sore about it. You 
have all the right in the world to hold your own opinion, 
but when you say that you have had no evidence of sur- 
vival, you say what I cannot reconcile with what I saw 
with my own eyes. I know, by many examples, the purity 
of my wife’s mediumship, and I saw what you got and 
what the effect was upon you at the time. You know 
also you yourself at once wrote down, with your own 
hand, the name of Powell, the one man who might be 
expected to communicate with me. Unless you were jok- 
ing when you said that you did not know of this Powell’s 
death, then surely that was evidential, since the idea that 
out of all your friends you had chanced to write the name 
of one who exactly corresponded, would surely be too 
wonderful a coincidence. 



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“However, I don’t propose to discuss this subject any 
more with you, for I consider that you have had your 
proofs and that the responsibility of accepting or rejecting 
is with you. As it is a very real lasting responsibility. 
However, I have it at last, for I have done my best to 
give you the truth. I will, however, send you my little 
book, on the fraud perpetrated upon Hope, but that will 
be my last word on the subject. Meanwhile, there are 
lots of other subjects on which we can all meet in friendly 
converse. 

“Yours very sincerely, 

(Signed) “A. Conan Doyle.” 

To which I replied: — 


“December 15, 1922. 

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 

Windlesham, 

Crowborough, 

Sussex. 

“My dear Sir Arthur: — 

“Received your letter regarding my article in the New 
York Sun. You write that you are very sore. I trust that 
it is not with me, because you, having been truthful and 
manly all your life, naturally must admire the same traits 
in other human beings. 

“I know you are honorable and sincere and think I owe 
you an explanation regarding the letter I received through 
the hands of Lady Doyle. 

“I was heartily in accord and sympathy at that seance 
but the letter was written entirely in English and my 
sainted Mother could not read, write or speak the English 
language. I did not care to discuss it at the time because 
of my emotion in trying to sense the presence of my 



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Mother, if there was such a thing possible, to keep me 
quiet until time passed, and I could give it the proper 
deduction. 

“Regarding my having written the name ‘Powell.’ 
Frederick Eugene Powell is a very dear friend of mine. 
He had just passed through two serious operations. 
Furthermore Mrs. Powell had a paralytic stroke at that 
time. I was having some business dealings with him 
which entailed a great deal of correspondence; therefore, 
naturally, his name was uppermost in my mind and I 
cannot make myself believe that my hand was guided by 
your friend. It was just a coincidence. 

“I trust my clearing up of the seance, from my point 
of view is satisfactory, and that you do not harbor any ill 
feelings, because I hold both Lady Doyle and yourself in 
the highest esteem. I know you treat this as a religion 
but personally I cannot do so, for up to the present time 
I have never seen or heard anything that could convert 
me. 

“Trusting you will accept my letter in the same honest, 
good faith feeling as it has been written. 

“With best wishes to Lady Doyle, yourself and the 
family, in which Mrs. Houdini joins, 

“Sincerely yours, 

(Signed) “Houdini.” 

In January 1923, the Scientific American issued a chal- 
lenge of $2500. to the first person to produce a psychic 
photograph under test conditions. An additional 
$2500. was offered to the first person who, under the test 
conditions, defined, and to the satisfaction of the judges 
named, produced an objective psychic manifestation of 
physical character as defined, and of such sort that perma- 
nent instrumental record may be made of its occurrence. 


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159 


The committee named were: Dr. William McDougall, 
D.Sc., Professor of Psychology at Harvard; Daniel Frisk 
Comstock, Ph.D., former member of the Faculty of the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Walter Franklin 
Prince, Ph.D., Principal Research Officer for the S. P. R.; 
Hereward Carrington, Ph.D., Psychic Investigator; J. 
Malcolm Bird, Member of the Scientific American Staff; 
and myself.* 

Sir Arthur’s letter is self-explanatory. 


“Windlesham, 

Crowborough, 

Sussex. 

“January 1, 1923. 

“My dear Houdini: 

“. . . I see that you are on the Scientific American 
Committee, but how can it be called an Impartial Com- 
mittee when you have committed yourself to such state- 
ments as that some Spiritualists pass away before they 
realize how they have been deluded, etc? You have 
every possible right to hold such an opinion, but you 
can’t sit on an Impartial Committee afterwards. It be- 
comes biased at once. What I wanted was five good 
clear-headed men who can push to it without any preju- 


* So far, all of the several seancesiof investigation held under the auspices 
of the Scientific American, have failed in proving the existence of supernatural 
power Air force, such as might with logical consistency be conceded as psychic. 

Valentine, the Wilkesbarre medium, proved to be a failure. Rev. (?) Jessie 
K. Stewart the same. Mrs. Elizabeth Allen Tomson of Chicago, a complete 
fiasco, not possessing sufficient courage to attempt a sitting other than under 
conditions and in a place prescribed by herself. And lastly the Italian lad, 
Nino Pecoraro, has accomplished nothing beyond the possibility of human exer- 
tion, and failed utterly in so doing when securely fettered, as proved to be the 
case, when I personally did the tying. See also Appendix H. 

And from the results gotten thus far from the series of sittings with this 
“medium” it is safe to predict that the final analysis will place him in the same 
category as all others to date. 



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dice at all, like the Dialectical Society * of London, who 
unanimously endorsed the phenomena. 

“Once more all greetings, 

(Signed) “A Conan Doyle.” 

On May 21, 22 and 24 the Scientific American held 
their first test seances. The permanent sitters were Mr. 
Walker, Mr. Lescurboura, Mr. J. Malcolm Bird of the 
Editorial staff of the Scientific American, Mr. Owen of 
the Times , Mr. Granville Lehrmann of the American 
Telephone and Telegraph and Richard I. Worrell, a friend 
of the medium. Drs. Carrington and Prince of the Com- 
mittee of Judges sat on Monday. Dr. Prince and myself 
on Thursday. On Tuesday the Committee was repre- 
sented by Mr. Frederick Keating, conjuror. 

The medium, a man by the name of George Valentine 
of Wilkes-Barre, Penn., claimed to be genuine. He was 
trapped by being seated on a chair which was so arranged 
that when he arose an electric light arrangement was fixed 
in the room adjoining, together with dictographs and a 
phosphorous button. In the estimation of the Committee, 
Mr. Valentine was just a common, ordinary trickster. 

Lady Doyle, Miss Juliet Karcher, Mrs. Houdini, Sir 
Arthur and I were lunching at the Royal Automobile 
Club in London, May 11, 1920, and Sir Arthur called 
attention to the fact that a few days previously they had 
been sitting at the same table with a powerful medium, 
and he told me in a very serious tone, which was corrobo- 

* According to Spiritualistic publications The Dialectical Society never made 
a full report. The “Reports” of sub- committees only were published by 
Spiritualist papers used by writers In books but such reports were based on 
“hear- say” evidence taken from Spiritists. They told their ghost stories to 
Committees and they were believed. There never was a unanimous report 
or conclusion. The non-Spiritual (?) members of the Dialectical Society refused 
to have anything to do with the investigation. The great majority of the Com- 
mittee were full-fledged Spiritualists, and the few whom they claimed to have 
convinced were simply credulous. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


161 


rated by Lady Doyle, that the table started to move all 
around the place to the astonishment of the waiter, who 
was not aware of the close proximity of the medium. 

All the time he was relating it, I watched him closely 
and saw that both he and Lady Doyle were most sincere 
and believed what they had told me to he an actual fact. 

There are times when I almost doubt the sincerity of 
some of Sir Arthur’s statements , even though I do not 
doubt the sincerity of his belief. 

I have been over a number of letters which I have 
received from Sir Arthur during the last few years and 
selected the following excerpts which show his viewpoint 
regarding many of the matters we have discussed. 

“I do not wonder that they put you down as an occult. 
As I read the accounts I do not see how you do it. You 
must be a brave man as well as exceptionally dexterous.” 
“How you get out of the diving suits heats me, hut the 
whole thing heats me completely.” 

“I spoke of the Davenport Brothers. Your word on 
the matter knowing, as you do both the man and the 
possibilities of his art, would be final.” 

“You are to me a perpetual mystery. No doubt you 
are to everyone.” 

“In a fair light I saw my dead Mother as clearly as I 
ever saw her in life. I am a cool observer and I do not 
make mistakes. It was wonderful — hut it taught me 
nothing I did not know before.” 

“Our best remembrances to your wife and yourself. 
For God’s sake he careful in those fearsome feats of yours. 
You ought to be able to retire now.” 

“These clairvoyants whose names I have given you are 
passive agents in themselves and powerless. If left to 
themselves they guess and muddle — as they sometimes do, 
when the true connection is formed, all is clear. That 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


connection depends on the forces beyond, which are re- 
pelled by frivolity or curiosity hut act under the impulse 
of sympathy.” 

“I see that you know a great deal about the negative 
side of Spiritualism.” 

“If you think of a lost friend before going to a seance 
and breathe a prayer that you may be allowed to get in 
touch you will have a chance — otherwise none. It really 
does depend upon psychic or mental vibrations and har- 
monies.” 

“I fear there is much fraud among American mediums 
where Spiritualism seems to have deservedly fallen into 
disrepute. Even when genuine it is used for stock ex- 
change, and other base worldly purposes. No wonder it 
has sunk low in the very land that was honored by the 
first Spiritual manifestations of the series.” 

“You certainly have very wonderful powers, whether 
inborn or acquired.” 

“I envy you the privilege of having met Ira Davenport.” 

“Most of our great mediums at present are unpaid 
amateurs, inaccessible to any but Spiritualists.” 

“Something must come your way if you really persevere 
and get it out of your mind that you should follow it as a 
terrier follows a rat.” 

“Mental harmony does not in the least abrogate com- 
mon sense.” 

“I heard of your remarkable feat in Bristol. My dear 
chap, why do you go around the world seeking a demon- 
stration of the occult when you are giving one all the 
time?” 

“I know Hope to he a true psychic and will give you 
my reasons when I treat it, hut you can give no man 
a blank check for honesty on every particular occasion, 
whether there is a temptation to hedge when psychic 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


163 


power runs low is a question to be considered. I am for 
an uncompromising honesty — but also for thorough ex- 
amination based on true knowledge.” 

“I am amused by your investigation with the Society 
for Psychical Research. Have they never thought of in- 
vestigating you?” 

“It was good of you to give those poor invalids a show 
and you will find yourself in the third sphere alright with 
your dear wife, world without end, whatever you may 
believe.” 

“Incredulity seems to me to be a sort of insanity under 
the circumstances.” This was in reference to some photo- 
graphs of ectoplasm which I questioned. 

“This talk of ‘fake’ is in most cases nonsense and 
shows our own imperfect knowledge of conditions and 
of the ways of Controls, who often take short cuts to their 
ends, having no regard at all to our critical idea.” 

“Our opponents talk of one failure and omit a great 
series of successes. However, truth wins and there is lots 
of time.” 

“I never let a pressman (newspaper man) get away 
with it with impunity if I can help it.” * 

* Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seems to imagine that all the newspapers in the 
world are against him. After his Australian tour he accused the Australian 
papers of refusing to publish the truth about his seances. Writing about 
American newspapers in his book* “An American Adventure,” he says: “The 
editors seem to place the intelligence of the public very low, and to imagine that 
they cannot be attracted save by vulgar, screaming headlines. 

“The American papers have a strange way also of endeavoring to compress 
the whole meaning of some item into a few words of headline, which, as often 
as not, are slang.” 

Even in Canada Sir Arthur claims to have badly used by the newspapers. 
In “Our American Adventure” he writes: “There were some rather bitter at- 

tacks in the Toronto papers, including the one leader in the Evening TeU- 
gram f which was so narrow and illiberal that I do not think the most provincial 
paper in Britain could have been guilty of it. 

“It was to the effect that British lecturers took money out of the town, that 
they did not give the money’s worth, and that they should be discouraged. 

“‘Poking Them in the Eye’ was the dignified title. 

“It did not seem to occur to the writer that a comic opera or a bedroom 


164 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“Our relations are certainly curious and likely to be- 
come more so, for as long as you attack what I know from 
experience to be true I have no alternative but to attack 
you in turn. How long a private friendship can survive 
such an ordeal I do not know, but at least I did not create 
the situation.” 

“You have a reputation among Spiritualists of being a 
bitterly prejudiced enemy who would make trouble if it 
were possible — I know this is not so.” 

On page 150 of Sir Arthur’s book “Our American 
Adventure” he says: 

“Houdini is not one of those shallow men who imagine 
they can explain away Spiritual phenomena as parlor 
tricks, but he retains an open — and ever, I think, a more 
receptive — mind toward mysteries which are beyond his 
art. He understands, I hope, that to get truth in the 
matter you have not to sit as a Sanhedrim of Judgement, 
like the Circle of Conjurors in London, since Spiritual 
truth does not come as a culprit to a bar, but you must 
submit ill a humble spirit to psychic conditions and so go 
forth, making most progress when on your knees.” 

Sir Arthur has told me time and time again that his 
whole life is based upon the subject of Spiritualism and 
that he has sacrificed some of the best years of his life 
to the betterment and spread of the cause, which, due to 
his sincerity, is a beautiful faith.* But in my opinion it 

comedy was equally taking the money out of the town, but that the main pur- 
pose served by lectures, whether one agreed with the subject or not, was that 
they kept the public in first hand touch with the great current questions of man- 
kind. I am bound to say that no other Toronto paper sank to the depth of the 
Evening Telegram but the general atmosphere was the least pleasant that I 
had met with in my American travels.” 

* In an article in Truth, April, 1923, entitled “The New Revelation,” by Rev. 
P. J. Cormican, S. J., he asks: 

“Does the knighted prophet of the New Revelation (Sir Arthur Conan 
Doyle) tell the whole truth about Spiritism? We think not. He says nothing 
about the evil consequences, physical, intellectual and moral, to those who dabble 
in Spiritism. He gives a one-sided account of the matter. He says nothing 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


165 


is no “sacrifice” to convince people who have recently 
suffered a bereavement of the possibility and reality of 
communicating with their dear ones. To me the poor 
suffering followers eagerly searching for relief from the 
heart-pain that follows the passing on of a dear one are 
the “sacrifice.” 

Sir Arthur thinks that I have great mediumistic powers 
and that some of my feats are done with the aid of spirits. 
Everything I do is accomplished by material means, hu- 
manly possible, no matter how baffling it is to the layman. 
He says that I do not enter a seance in the right frame of 
mind, that I should be more submissive, but in all the 
seances I have attended I have never had a feeling of 
antagonism. I have no desire to discredit Spiritualism; 
I have no warfare with Sir Arthur; I have no fight with 
the Spiritists; but I do believe it is my duty, for the bet- 
terment of humanity, to place frankly before the public 
the results of my long investigation of Spiritualism. I am 
willing to be convinced; my mind is open, but the proof 
must be such as to leave no vestige of doubt that what is 
claimed to be done is accomplished only through or by 
supernatural power. So far I have never on any occasion, 
in all the seances I have attended, seen anything which 
would lead me to credit a mediumistic performance with 
supernatural aid, nor have I ever seen anything which 
has convinced me that it is possible to communicate with 
those who have passed out of this life. Therefore I do 
not agree with Sir Arthur. 

about what Spiritism has done, and is still doing, to fill our lunatic asylums 
all over the world. There are over thirty thousand lunatics in England alone 
who lost their mind through this modem necromancy. Doyle does not even 
hint at the countless cases of insanity and suicide, of blasphemy and obscenity, 
of lying and deception, of broken homes and violated troth, all caused by 
Spiritism. To suppose that a God of truth and sanctity is giving a new 
message through such sources and with such consequences, is blasphemy pure arid 
simple. Furthermore, to assert that this New Revelation is to supersede a 
worn-out creed is both gratuitous and absurd. Christianity will last till the 
crack of doom, when titled prophets shall have ceased to cross the Atlantic in 
quest of American shekels.” 



CHAPTER X 


WHY ECTOPLASM ? 

Years have passed since my first meeting with the 
Hon. Everard Feilding! Many times during those years 
I have discussed Spiritualism with him and no one has 
ever been more interested than he in the results of my 
investigations and study of it and it was through his help 
that I was able to investigate personally the famous Eva 
Carriere, better known perhaps as Mile. Eva. 

One evening in the spring of 1920 during a quiet 
dinner at his home in London the conversation drifted 
toward Ectoplasm. I told Mr. and Mrs.* Feilding about 
attending a Sunday meeting of the London Psychical 
College through the courtesy of Hewat McKenzie. At 
this meeting Mme. Bisson and Mile. Eva were introduced 
by Fomieur d’Albe and Mme. Bisson while delivering 
an impromptu talk seized the opportunity to resent the 
attack of a French magician and to explain in unmistak- 
able tones her antagonism toward prestidigitators. 

Mr. Feilding assured me I was correct about her an- 
tipathy towards magicians and suggested that the only 
way I could ever hope to attend one of her seances was 
to convince the medium that I was not one of the biased 
prestidigitator class, and proposed as a means to attain 
this end a theatre party to see my performance and thus 
enable Mme. Bisson and Mile. Eva to judge for them- 

* Mrs. Feilding is Mme. Tomcbik, the Polish medium examined by Professor 
Ochorowiz, and is the best known medium who “levitates” things without 
physical contact. 

166 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


167 


selves. This was arranged and the night they came to 
the theatre to see me I did the Torture Cell Mystery, in 
which I am completely submerged, head foremost, in a 
tank of water, and it is a physical impossibility to obtain 
air while locked in the device. They were so much mysti- 
fied that they expressed a desire to attend another per- 
formance of mine sometime in the near future. I had 
just accepted a challenge to escape from a packing case 
which was to be built on the stage by experienced carpen- 
ters and thinking that it would be an interesting per- 
formance for Mme. Bisson to witness I extended her an 
invitation and received the following letter in reply. 

“May 19, 1920. 

“Dear Mr. Houdini: 

“We, Mile. Eva and I, shall be charmed to see you at 
the performance of which you have spoken to me, on next 
Wednesday. Since you have had the great kindness to 
offer us several tickets, it gives me great pleasure to 
accept, and if you wish, you may send us four, as we 
expect to join in the applause with Mr. and Mrs. Feilding. 

“I also wish to tell you something else! 

“You know that we give seances here, showing the 
phenomena of materialization. These are not spirit 
studies. They are scientific. 

“It would interest Mr. Feilding and ourselves to have 
at our seances a master in the art of prestidigitation, but 
I have always refused to admit to my house, an ordinary 
prestidigitator, or even one of better rank. Our work is 
serious and real, and the gift of Mile. Eva might disap- 
pear forever, if some awkward individual insists on think- 
ing there is fraud involved, instead of real and interesting 
facts, which especially interest the scientific. 

“For you this does not hold! You are above all this. 


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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


You are a magnificent actor, who can not call himself a 
prestidigitator, a title beneath a man of your talent. 

“I shall therefore, (rather we shall) be proud to see 
you attend our seances and hear you tell us all, after you 
have been thoroughly convinced yourself, that their merit 
is far beneath your own, for these manifestations depend 
merely upon allowing the forces of nature to act, and lie 
simply in truth of fact. Whereas with you, it is your 
merit, your talent, and your personal valor that have 
enabled you to attain the place of King in your art. 

“With kind and esteemed regards to Mme. Houdini 
and yourself, (Signed) Juliette Bisson.” 

(Translated.) 

When I showed this letter to Mr. Feilding he was both 
surprised and pleased for it gave him an opportunity to 
invite me to become one of the Committee which was to 
investigate Mme. Bisson and Mile. Eva’s seances to be 
held by the Society for Psychical Research, and so at the 
combined invitations of the mediums and Mr. Feilding 
I attended eight. Each of them lasted three hours and I 
firmly believe that a description of them and their results 
is important. 

At these seances my word was pledged to give full and 
sacred thoughts and I tried to control my thoughts so that 
my whole attention could be given to the medium. There 
was no scoffing and there was the will to believe. I felt 
that if anything was manifested by the Spirits my con- 
science would be clear. However, I sat with my eyes 
open, taking in even the most minute details and keeping 
on my guard against any trickery. A number of times I 
occupied a “control” chair at the medum’s left with her 
left limb between mine and both of my hands holding her 
left hand and wrist, while Eric Dingwall had the Com- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


169 


mittee seat on her right. Eva was accompanied at all of 
the seances by Mme. Bisson and the method of procedure 
was always the same. After Eva had been stripped and 
searched * in an adjoining room by the lady members of 
the Committee, she returned dressed in tights and 
Mme. Bisson would then put her into a mesmeric sleep. 
There is no doubt in my mind that the girl was really put 
to sleep. We were requested to all join in asking her in 
unison for about fifteen minutes at each crisis to “give” — 
“donnez”- — then, after about three hours, she would bring 
forth this alleged ectoplasm. 

At one of the seances the Hon. Feilding did insist on 
Eva’s eating crackers and drinking coffee, so that if she 
had anything concealed in her stomach, which she might 
by regurgitation expel, the coffee would discolor it. 

The seance of June 22, 1920, was held at 20 Hanover 
Square, London. Mme. Bisson and Eva retired to another 
room and Eric Dingwall sewed a black lace veil to the 
tights which Eva wore. This veil completely enshrouded 
her and looked like a sort of hag or net. The object of 
this was to prevent her from placing anything in her 
mouth or get anything from her tights to the neck — in 
fact, it was a double security against fraud. We sat and 
waited and finally she expelled from her mouth a great 
deal of foam. 

Feilding and Baggley stated that it looked as though 
it had come from her nose. I saw distinctly that it was 
a heavy froth and was adhering to her veil on the inside. 
Dingwall, who sat next to the medium, agreed with me 
it had emanated from her mouth, hut when she leaned 
forward it looked as though it was coming from her nose. 
She produced a white plaster and eventually managed to 
juggle it over her eye. There was a face in it which 

* At no time, to my knowledge, did the search include the orifices of her body* 


170 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


looked to me like a colored cartoon and seemed to have 
been unrolled. 

The last thing she produced that evening was a sub- 
stance which she said she felt in her mouth and asked 
permission to use her hands to show. This was granted 
and she took a load from her mouth behind the veil which 
was wet and looked soaked. It appeared to be inflated rub- 
ber. No one saw a face painted on it. Presently it seemed 
to disappear. They all said it “vanished suddenly,” but 
my years of experience in presenting the Hindoo needle 
trick * convinced me that she “sleight-of -handed” it into 
her mouth while pretending to have it between her fingers. 
I know positively that the move she made is almost 
identical with the manner in which I manipulate my 
experiment. Dingwall was very confident and told Mme. 
Bisson that he was nearly satisfied with Eva’s experiments. 
She showed her peevishness to Feilding so plainly that I 
could scarcely conceal my smiles. 

In the course of conversation after the seance, Mme. 
Bisson told the Committee that at one time Eva had 
materialized on the top of her knees the head of an 
American soldier with a heavy mustache and blue eyes. 
It caused some merriment when Dingwall asked her how 
she could tell the color of a man’s eyes in the dark. 

* In this trick I swallow (if one's eyes are to be trusted) anywhere from 
fifty to a hundred and fifty needles and from ten to thirty yards of thread; 
then after a few seconds I bring up the needles all threaded. The length of 
thread is governed by the size of my audience. For instance, at the Hippodrome, 
in New York, I used one hundred and ten feet of thread and two hundred 
needles; at the Berlin Winter Garden one hundred feet of thread and one hun- 
dred needles. In the regular large size theatres I use about eighty feet of 
thread and a hundred needles but for ordinary purposes thirty-five feet of 
thread and seventy-five needles are sufficient. 

So far this trick has never been properly explained but that does not prove 
that I have Abnormal powers. This needle mystery has been examined by a 
great many physicians and surgeons and in Boston at Keith’s Theatre it was 
presented at a special performance to over a thousand physicians and they 
were unable to explain it. However, there is nothing abnormal in it It is 
nothing more than a clever and natural mystification. 




fliil 


MME. BISSON, MRS. FEILDING (tOMCHICK), AND MLLE. EVA 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


171 


Mme. Bisson, perplexed and in grieved tones, asked 
whether they were suspicious or simply did not believe 
her. They tried hard to pacify her hut to no avail. 

At the seance of June 24th, held in the same place, I 
arrived somewhat late but the Committee allowed me to 
come in. That evening I felt that there was something 
wrong in the air and after the lapse of two hours Mme. 
Bisson told us that she was in grief and greatly disheart- 
ened because there was so much suspicion aimed at her. 
She was especially peeved at Dingwall, who had told her 
that he was only “almost” convinced. At no time was 
I antagonistic but, on the contrary, willing to help along. 

Presently Feilding in a rather jovial mood left the room 
for a breath of fresh air. When he came back he was 
very serious and asked that they continue. Mme. Bisson 
thought he was trying to tease her and became very angry. 
She was wrong, in my opinion, but they argued and 
expostulated for half an hour and then the seance broke 
up. During the argument Eva, who was in a cabinet in a 
“trance state,” spoke out as though she had not been in 
a trance. I afterwards asked Mr. Feilding if this was 
not suspicious, but he told me that it was possible for a 
human being while in a trance or hypnotic state to carry 
on a conversation consciously. When Mme. Bisson left 
us Mr. Feilding told me that he was very sorry about 
the unpleasantness and would make all possible amends 
to her. 

After a number of sittings with Eva during which 
nothing startling occurred I made up my mind to be 
lenient with the medium and help her, so I held her hands 
for some time and gradually withdrew both of mine, 
giving her all the leeway she needed in case there was any 
desire on her part to use the hand which I was supposed 
to be holding, but she made no move whatever. 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


I was not in any way convinced by the demonstrations 
witnessed. I believe that Eva’s feats are accomplished by 
regurgitation. If not, the work she is reputed to do is 
an “inside job.” * I regret that I do not believe Mme. 
Bisson entitled to a clean bill of health. During the 
seances which I attended she kept up a quasi hypnotic 
work full of gestures and suggestions as to what could he 
seen, putting into the minds of those present “shadowy 
forms and faces.” In my estimation she is a subtle and 
gifted assistant to Eva whom I do not believe to he honest. 
On the contrary, I have no hesitation in saying that I 
think the two simply took advantage of the credulity and 
good nature of the various men with whom they had to 
deal. 

In this conclusion I am not alone, for in reviewing the 
Villa Carmine seances of Mile. Eva, Mr. Heuze states in 
the London T elegraph of September 4th, 1922 : 

“The whiteness supposed to have come from the ‘world 
beyond’ was nothing but a Communicant’s veil rolled up 
in the medium’s pocket.” 

He also quotes Mile. Eva as saying: 

“Monsieur, I never made any confession.” 

“In that case,” he comments, “all I can say is that 
M. Carborrnel, M. Coulom, Maitre Marsault, Maitre Jour- 
man, Dr. Demis, Mile. Mare, M. Verdier, Cochet M. 
Portal, Mme. Portal and others must have all lied in a 
body to persecute Mile. Eva.” 

Also the Sorbonne scientists at Paris, according to a 
report in the New York Times, stated officially that during 
fifteen seances with Mile. Eva there was nothing beyond 
the simple act of regurgitation. In two instances there 
was no ectoplasm seen at any time in spite of the fact 

* That is, has a secret accomplice. One who does things to help along 
“unknown.” One who is in the “click.” 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


173 


that Mme. Bisson suggested that two little discs produced 
by Mile. Eva were assuming forms and faces. None of 
the professors, however, were able to see anything of the 
kind, but on the contrary declared that: 

“The substance was absolutely inert, only moving as 
movement was given it by the medium’s mouth. The 
substance having been reabsorbed the medium seemed 
to be chewing for some seconds and then apparently 
swallowed it.” * 

W. J. Crawford, Doctor of Science, and a lecturer on 
Mechanical Engineering, of Belfast, Irleand, became very 
much interested in a family of mediums consisting of a 
father, four daughters, a son, and a son-in-law and known 
as the Goligher Circle. Of the seven, the most successful 
was Miss Kathleen Goligher. f 

While at Mr. Feilding’s home in London I had the 
pleasure of meeting this Dr. Crawford and talking with 
him for several hours. During the talk he showed me 
pictures of what he claimed was ectoplasm exuding from 
different parts of Kathleen Goligher’s body and told me 
he was going to use them in a forthcoming book. 

“Do you honestly believe that everything you have 
experienced through your contact and experiments with 
the girl is absolutely genuine?” I asked him. 

“I am positive in my belief.” he answered. 

After he had gone Mr. Feilding turned to me and 
asked : 

“What do you think of Dr. Crawford?” 

* After my last seance with Mile. Eva Mr. Feilding discovered by accident 
that I was writing a book on the subject. He begged me not to say a word 
or publish anything about the seances until after the Society for Psychical 
Research had published a full report. Now that it has done so there is nothing 
to keep me from writing my experiences. 

t The result of his investigations are published in three books: “Reality of 
Psychic Phenomena,” “Psychic Structures at Goligher Circle,” and “Experiments 
in Psychical Science.” 



174 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


"He seems mad to me," 1 answered. 

"Houdini, you are mistaken," he replied. 

Nevertheless I do not think that D!'. Crawford was the 
right man or had the right sort of a mind for an investi- 
gation. To me his credulity seemed limitless. E. E. 
Fournier d'Albe's report of Dr. Crawford's seance with 
the Goligher Circle coincides with my judgment. In a 
communication addressed to "Light" in August, 1922, 
d'Albe referring to his own tenth seance says: 

"I found to my surprise that I could myself with some 
little management, produce the phenomena with my feet 
exactly as I had observed them." 

Dr. Von Schrenk-Notzing charged d'Albe with enter- 
ing his investigation with "prejudice against the genuine- 
ness of the Goligher phenomena." This d'Albe denied, 
say mg: 

"I had gone to Belfast fresh from Eva C's seance with 
a strong conviction of reality and with firm faith in Dr. 
Crawford's reliability and accuracy. I expected a gifted 
medium surrounded by her honest folks, but then came 
the blows: first, the contact photographs, then the evi- 
dences of trickery. The sight of the 'medium' raising 
a stool with her foot, filled me with bitter disappoint- 
ment. The simple, honest folks all turned out to be 
an alert, secretive, troublesome group of well-organized 
performers. " 

Here is the experience of a man, who, with a mind 
prejudiced in favor, entered upon a series of tests expect- 
ing full confirmation of impressions already gotten from 
his experiences with Eva C., but though ready to believe, 


* It would be difficult to convilll'e me that the many things photographed 
and described by Baron could be presented under rigid test 

conditions. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 175 

not biased against the conclusions or rational deduction. 
His summary, though brief, is worthy of note: 

“The Goligher Circle has repeatedly been urged, by 
myself and others, to submit to further investigations by 
a fresh investigator, but so far without success. If it 
does consent, I can predict two things with confidence: 

I. No genuine psychic phenomena will be observed. 

II. No evidence of fraud will be obtained, as the 
members of the Circle are exceedingly wary, and the 
evidence of trickery which I obtained was gathered under 
conditions which they had not foreseen, but which they 
will doubtless avoid in the future. 

“I also feel safe in predicting that if Miss Goligher’s 
feet and hands are controlled, and the cooperation of the 
other sitters eliminated, there will be no levitation of any 
kind. (Signed) E. E. Fournier d’Albe. 

21 Gower Street, 
W.C.l 

Poor Dr. Crawford! He committed suicide in Belfast 
in 1920 and left a note saying that his research into 
Spiritualism had nothing to do with his self-murder. 
I am very sorry indeed that this sincere investigator be- 
came his own judge because what he had written had 
been done in good faith. 

A short time after Dr. Crawford’s death his literary 
executor requested Dr. d’Albe, early in 1921, to under- 
take a further series of researches with the same medium 
and circle in order, if possible, to obtain an independent 
confirmation of his results and theories and to collect 
more data concerning the nature of these manifestations. 
d’Albe tells in his book how he caught Katie Goligher 
manipulating and how he saw against the dim, red back- 
ground of the wall the stool held by Katie’s foot and a 



176 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


portion of her leg. In some of these manipulations the 
people around the table assisted. 

When he left Belfast he wrote a very nice letter in 
which he intimated that the result of his three months’ 
experience with the Goligher Circle did not furnish any 
definite proofs of the psychic origin of the numerous 
phenomena witnessed by him, and as they were of no 
scientific value he had decided to have no more sittings. 
It was suggested that Katie Goligher give twelve more 
sittings under test conditions, but she refused on the 
ground that her health would not permit her to entertain 
such a proposal for at least a year. 

I sat with d’Albe at one of Mile. Eva’s seances. I 
liked his methods and believe him to be a sincere investi- 
gator. I have the following note from him in answer 
to a letter of mine. 

Kingston-on-Thames. 

October 10, 1922. 

“Dear Houdini: 

“Yours of the 26th ult. just received. Yes, the 
Goligher legend has lost its glamour. I must say I was 
greatly surprised at Crawford’s blindness. . . . 

“Sincerely yours, 

“d’Albe.” 

In 1920, Capt. C. Marsh Beadnell, of London, pub- 
lished a pamphlet in which he offered twenty pounds 
if Dr. Crawford’s mediums would produce a single levita- 
tion under conditions which would preclude trickery. 
I am certain that any magician with a circle of six of 
his own choosing and with only one observer of the 
Crawford type could, under the same conditions, produce 
effects much more startling than any of those recounted 
by the trustful doctor. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


177 


The hook to which Dr. Crawford referred when he 
showed me the photographs he intended to use in it has, 
since his death, been published by David Gow, Editor 
of the Spiritualistic paper Light. In a prefatory note he 
writes : 

“I could say much about the present book with its 
remarkable elucidation of many problems connected with 
the psychical phenomena of Spiritualism, hut I content 
myself with a reference to such experiments as those 
with the soft clay and the methylene blue, which finally 
clear away certain suspicions which have always attached 
to psychical mediums in connection with materialization 
phenomena amongst uninstructed investigators. This is 
not the least valuable part of a valuable hook.” 

The above statement raises the question of what hear- 
ing any of these experiments, supposing every detail 
claimed were a fact, has on a future state. What possible 
information could impressions in clay, or stockings soiled 
by dye, furnish concerning the future state of a soul ? 

Ejner Nielson, of Copenhagen, was sponsored by Dr. 
Oscar Jaeger, Professor of Economics at the University 
of Christiania, Norway, and President of the Norwegian 
Society for Psychical Research. Professor Jaeger was 
invited by the Editor of the Politikon , at Copenhagen, 
to hold a seance with Neilson. He accepted and it took 
place in January, 1922, before a specially selected com- 
mittee * appointed by the president of the Norwegian 
University, Professor Frederick Stange. A few weeks 
later the committee reported that Nielson had not been 
capable of producing any so-called teleplasma or phe- 
nomena of materialization. Subsequently the Society 

* Dr* Troup, Professor of Psychology; Dr* Stormer, Professor of Mathe- 
matics; Dr. Scheldrup, Professor of Physics; Dr. Monrad Krhn, Professor of 
Neurology; Dr* (med.) Leegaard, and Mr. Johs Dammann, a prominent expert 
of conjuring tricks. 



178 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


for Psychical Research reported that teleplasma had 
been “artificially brought into the body of the medium.” 

Paul Heuze, writing of the Polish medium, in the 
London Daily Telegraph of September 18, 1922, 
says: 

“S. D. Stamislaski arrived in Paris on April 7th. On 
the 10th he had an interview at the Sorbonne with 
Professor Pieron and on the 11th I went, at his request, 
to take part in the initial seance which was held in a 
bedroom of his hotel. This was, of course, merely a 
preparatory seance. My impression was not at all 
favorable.” 

In speaking of the subsequent seances of this medium 
he declares: 

“The whole thing may be summed up in a single 
sentence; the result was pitiable. Suffice it to say that 
in spite of inadequate control, not only did I never see 
any of the luminous phenomena of the first seances but 
that hardly anything took place at all and when it did 
it was merely one of those clumsy pieces of deception that 
are practiced in the most ordinary Spiritualistic seances: 
— Articles moved, thrown forward, touchings, slaps, books 
dropped on the head, etc. The whole thing carried out 
in such a manner that there could not be the slightest 
doubt as to the gross trickery with which it was 
performed.” 

I have personally attended seances held by two of the 
ectoplasmic mediums, Mile. Eva and Mrs. Thompson, 
and I have no doubt that it is only a question of time 
when all such mediums, as well as these two, including 
Stamislawa, P. Frank Kluski, S. G. Stamislaski, Jean 
Guzek,* Kathleen Goligher, Ejner Nielson, Frau Siebert 

* Guzek was exposed in Paris as I predicted, the exposure occurring sooner 
than, expected. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 179 

and Willy Sch, will be authentically classified as 
questionable. 

Bear in mind, I am not a skeptic. It is my will to 
believe and if convincing evidence is brought forward I 
will be the first to acknowledge my mistake, but up to 
the present day nothing has crossed my path to make me 
think that the Great Almighty will allow emanations from 
a human body of such horrible, revolting, viscous sub- 
stances as Baron Von Schrenk Notzing claims, hideous 
shapes, which, like “genii from the bronze bottle,” ring 
hells, move handkerchiefs, wobble tables, and do other 
“flap-doodle” stunts. 



CHAPTER XI 


BY-PRODUCTS OF SPIRITUALISM 

It has come to my attention in talking to numbers of 
laymen that the general public thinks of Spiritualism 
only in terms of mediums and seances and that the aver- 
age man does not seem to realize the suffering, losses, 
misfortunes, crimes and atrocities of which it is the under- 
lying cause and must bear the primary responsibility. 
During the more than thirty years in which I have been 
investigating Spiritualism I have industriously collected 
all possible data on the subject and in the thousands of 
clippings, dating from 1854 to the present time, which 
are filed away in my library, there are hundreds which 
tell of crimes attributable to Spiritualism. In my great 
collection of books there are many by world-renowned 
writers, men of science, physicians, and philosophers, 
each dealing with the curse of Spiritualism. It touches 
every phase of human affairs and emotions, leaving in its 
wake a crowd of victims whose plight is frequently 
pathetic, sometimes ludicrous, oftener miserable and 
unfortunate, and who are always deluded. It is to these 
effects of Spiritualism which are seldom considered that I 
wish to call the reader’s attention in this chapter. 

The New York Herald on June 16, 1923, told under 
a Syracuse date line the following incident: 

“William H. Burr of Rochester, speaking to-day at the 
business session of the New York State Assembly of 
Spiritualists, of which he is President, said he could prove 

180 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


181 


scientifically and conclusively the fact of communication 
with the Spirit world. Mr. Burr appealed for the aboli- 
tion of capital punishment. He explained that he had 
communicated with Spirits from the bodies of murderers 
and realized their sufferings, as those skeptical of psychic 
communication never can.” 

The New York Evening World, of March 8, 1922, re- 
ports that: 

“Thurs Bergen Vigelius, a student in chemistry, of 
Brooklyn, N. Y., with faith that a Spiritual ‘glimpse’ 
of the hereafter and power to write a book thereof would 
be a distinct contribution to science and literature if he 
could ‘project himself into a comatose condition simulating 
death,’ drugged himself frequently into experimental 
sleep, but on his last experiment his consciousness not 
only deserted him, but breath and life accompanied it. 
He was regarded as an exceptionally bright student with 
every prospect of a promising career, had he not been 
susceptible to a fallacious belief.” 

One of the saddest cases of modern times is that of 
the young Barnard College student, Miss Marie Bloom- 
field, who declared herself in love with a Spirit and finally 
was driven to suicide in order to join him. The young 
lady had been an ardent student of Spiritualism and very 
active in its cause. All the newspapers of February 9, 
1923, carried an account of her death, which attracted 
so much attention that a law was proposed in the New 
York Assembly to prevent seances but it failed of being 
passed. 

The Washington Times (D. C.) of January 14, 1923, 
tells of an Earl L. Clark who secured a divorce on the 
grounds that his wife claimed that she had a “Spirit 
affinity” named Alfred and that this Alfred through 
Clark’s wife made his life unbearable, even predicting 



182 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


bis death so that she might marry some man who would 
“accept Alfred’s Spiritual guidance.” 

According to an account in the New York World, John 
Slater, chief medium of the National Spiritualists Asso- 
ciation, claims that there were over five hundred Spiritual- 
ists who served with the American Expeditionary Force, 
none of which were wounded or afflicted with “cooties.” 
The freedom from wounds he attributed to the influence 
of Spirits. 

The New York Times on April 27, 1922, told of a 
John Comyn, in San Francisco, who shot and killed two 
of his hoys, one seven and the other eight, because, ac- 
cording to the police, he had been in “communication” 
with his wife who had been dead a year and she “had 
asked him to send all of their five children to her.” 

The following story in the New York Times of April 
22, 1887, comes from Philadelphia: 

“The jury in the case of Mrs. Sarah Patterson, an 
alleged medium, charged by the County Medical Society 
with practising medicine and surgery without being regis- 
tered as a physician, this afternoon returned a verdict of 
guilty. The defence set up by the defendant’s counsel 
was that Mrs. Patterson was a medium and under the con- 
trol of Spirits, and was not therefore responsible for what 
she did in a trance. The defendant’s counsel are both 
Spiritualists and the case has attracted considerable inter- 
est, the court room being crowded since the trial began.” 
These are the sort of things for which Spiritualism is 
responsible that are being told of in the papers frequently. 
To these few examples I could add hundreds from my 
files and they are constantly growing. 

A hoax which usually creates a sensation, but which 
is apt, ultimately, to have a decidedly bad effect on 
believers’ nerves, consists in allowing some person to 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


183 


touch or even fondle a materialized Spirit. One such 
demonstration occurred in a Southern city, where there 

lived a medium known as Mrs. M . Her seances 

were always well attended and largely made up of the 
elite of the town. On one particular night a Spirit came 
forth and called for Andrew, saying in the most austere 
tones: 

“I am the Spirit of ‘Josie’ and I want to see my beloved 
whom I left twenty years ago. I know that he is present 
and that he wants to hear from me, and more important, 
I know he still loves me, for in those twenty years he has 
never married.” 

With trembling knees and shaking hands the man 
climbed to the stage and in the midst of sobs recognized 
and embraced his sweetheart. It was a very touching 
and pathetic scene and the believers were greatly affected, 
and at some one’s suggestion an ex-minister and editor of 
a Spiritualistic magazine, who was present, married the 
Spirit bride to the live groom. It was a sensational proof 

of mediumship and Mrs. M was headlined in all the 

local papers. Unfortunately, however, for the cause of 
Spiritualism, my old friend, Professor Harry Cook, hap- 
pened to be in the neighborhood and on hearing about 
it hired a hall, challenged the medium to a test, and with 
a lady assistant performed and exposed the miracle. 

I recall another instance where one of my friends was 
investigating a materialization seance. It was claimed 
that the Spirit of his deceased wife was manifesting and 
he asked permission to kiss her. This was graciously 
granted and he told me later that she must have forgotten 
to shave for she had a stubble beard. Incidentally I 
might add that while he attended the seance his real wife 
waited for him at a nearby theatre. 

Such an eminent scientist as Sir William Crookes evi- 



184 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


dently fell for the materialization hoax, judging from what 
he tells us about his experience at a seance where 
Florence Cook was the medium and Katie King the 
phantom. I will quote the story in his own words as 
he tells it in his book “Researches in Spiritualism.” 

“Several times she took my arm and the impression I 
received that it was a living woman at my side and not 
a visitor from the other world was so strong that the 
temptation to repeat a recent and curious experiment 
became almost irresistible. 

“Realizing then that if it were not a Spirit beside me 
it was in any case a lady, I asked her permission to take 
her in my arms in order to verify the interesting observa- 
tion that a bold experimenter had recently made known. 
This permission was graciously given, and I took ad- 
vantage of it respectfully, as any gentleman would have 
done in the same circumstances. The ‘ghost,’ which 
made no resistance, was a being as material as Miss Cook 
herself. 

“Katie then declared that on this occasion she felt able 
to show herself at the same time as Miss Cook. I lowered 
the gas and with my phosphorus lamp entered the room 
which served as a cabinet. It was dark and I groped for 
Miss Cook, finding her crouched upon the floor. Kneel- 
ing down, I let the air enter my lamp and by its light 
saw the young woman dressed in black velvet, as she 
had been at the beginning of the seance, and appearing 
completely insensible. 

“She did not stir when I took her hand and held the 
lamp near her face, but she continued to breathe quietly. 
Raising my lamp, I looked around me and saw Katie, 
who was standing close behind Miss Cook. She was clad 
in flowing white drapery, as we had already seen her in 
the seance. Holding one of Miss Cook’s hands in mine, 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 185 

and still kneeling, I raised and lowered the lamp, as 
much to illuminate the whole figure of Katie as to con- 
vince myself fully that I really saw the true Katie, whom 
I had held in my arms a few moments ago, and not the 
phantom of a disordered brain. 

“She did not speak hut nodded her head in recognition. 
Three different times I carefully examined Miss Cook, 
crouching before me, to assure myself that the hand I 
held was indeed that of a living woman, and thrice turned 
my lamp toward Katie to scrutinize her with sustained 
attention, until I had not the slightest doubt that she 
was really there before me.” 

Another instance of this sort is told of by Florence 
Marryat in her book “There Is No Death.” 

“I opened the curtains of the cabinet and there stood 
John Powles himself, stalwart and living. He stepped 
up brusquely and took me in his arms and kissed me, 
four or five times, as a long departed brother might have 
done; and strange to say, I did not feel the least surprised 
at it, but clung to him like a sister. John Powles had 
never once kissed me during his life time. Although 
we had lived for four years in the closest intimacy, often 
under the same roof, we had never indulged in any 
familiarity.” 

Unfortunately mere deception is not the only or the 
worst evil in these Spiritualistic materializations. Fre- 
quently they are made the means of accomplishing crim- 
inal designs. There came to my attention a case of a 
very peculiar nature in which a widow was robbed of a 
large fortune. It appears that there was a wealthy old 
widower, a devoted Spiritualist, who was easily influenced 
by certain mediums. These same mediums also had 
among their clients a rather weak-minded widow. At a 
seance they got the old man to propose marriage to this 


186 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


widow who, in turn, was being advised through them 
by the Spirit of her husband to marry the old man. The 
old man did not live very long after the wedding and on 
his death bed promised the woman that he would come 
back to aid her and give her financial advice. He had 
previously made a will giving her absolute control of his 
estate. 

The body was taken to an undertaking establishment 
to be cared for until the funeral and on the day before 
the service the widow attended a seance at which her 
husband told her: 

“You go to my coffin to-morrow morning before the 
ceremony and I will speak to you, giving you my final 
instructions from my mortal body.” 

The next morning, accompanied by a nurse, the woman 
went to the undertaker’s and was taken to the room where 
the body lay in its casket. She spoke and to her aston- 
ishment the corpse opened its eyes and said: 

“I want you to give half of the fortune I willed you to 

B and M , the mediums. They have helped me 

for years and I would like to show them my appreciation. 
Farewell, I will speak to you at seances but never again 
from the body.” 

The astounded widow threw herself on the body crying: 
“I promise! I will! I promise!” 

“Promise?” asked the corpse. 

“I promise faithfully,” she replied. 

True to her word, the widow divided the fortune with 
the mediums, who are now in foreign countries living a 
peaceful life unless troubled by their consciences. 

The deception was worked as follows: the mediums, 
taking advantage of the undertaker’s weakness, kept him 
intoxicated and were thus free to do whatever they cared 
to around his establishment. The casket was arranged 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


187 


with a false bottom which ran in and out on ball bearings 
and one end was made to open. Just before the widow’s 
visit to the undertaking establishment this false bottom 
with the old man’s body was run out of the casket and 
hidden in an adjoining room and one of the mediums, 
made up to represent the dead man, was placed in the 
casket. As soon as the act was over the corpse was put 
back in its proper place. 

This is not the only instance of this sort by any means. 
I have known of two other instances in which corpses 
have been used for purposes of fraud. In one a man was 
dying. A lawyer was sent for and the nurse gotten out 
of the way on some plausible excuse. After the man died, 
but before the lawyer arrived, his body was hidden under 
the bed. One of the gang took his place in the bed and 
dictated a will with gasping breath and afterwards made 
his mark in the presence of a perfectly honest attorney 
and witness. Before the nurse got back the corpse 
had been placed in the bed and there was nothing to 
show that a fraud had been committed. 

To show that such things are possible and that ex- 
changing bodies in a coffin can be accomplished, I want 
to call attention to the coffin act which I did for the Boston 
Athletic Association. A solid oak coffin was furnished by 
the National Casket Company and delivered to the Asso- 
ciation. Six-inch screws were used to fasten down the 
lid but I managed to escape nevertheless, leaving no 
traces. 

It is not generally known that Charles J. Guiteau, the 
assassin of President Garfield, was a pronounced Spirit- 
ualist. He claimed that he was inspired by the Spirits 
four times. Once in connection with his entering the 
Oneida co mm unity. Once preceding his attempt to estab- 
lish a newspaper called “The Theocrat.” Again when 



188 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


writing his book “The Truth a Companion to the Bible,” 
and still again when he was inspired to kill the President. 

Another case in which Spirits were claimed to have 
been responsible for diverting funds is told in “The 
Fallacies of Spiritualism.” 

“In September, 1920, an action was brought in the 
New York Courts against a medium named Mrs. Mabelle 
Hirons, for the recovery of twelve thousand four hundred 
dollars, alleged to have been obtained by ‘Spiritualistic’ 
means from Dr. J. B. Hubbell, of Rockville, Maryland. 
Dr. Hubbell declared that after the death of Clara Barton,* 
founder of the American Red Cross, to whom he had been 
secretary, it was intended to erect a memorial to that lady, 
to which he proposed contributing twelve thousand four 
hundred dollars of his own money, including nine hun- 
dred dollars bequeathed him by Clara Barton herself. 
In 1914 he visited Mrs. Hirons, who, he said, went into 
a trance and gave him a ‘message’ that was supposed to 
come from Clara Barton and which directed him to give 
all the money to Mrs. Hirons for the memorial. Dr. 
Hubbell believed the ‘message’ to he genuine and gave 
her the money, but the memorial was never erected — 
hence the action.” 

A few years ago the papers told of the case of a woman 
in the Middle West who was sensationally and cruelly 
deceived by a medium. When she lost her little girl it 
was feared that she would not recover from the intense 
grief with which she was overcome. On the woman’s 
farm was a hired man whose wife was a medium. He 
talked sympathetically with her and got her to allow him 
to send for his wife, who was in Chicago. She began 
preaching Spiritualism as soon as she arrived, finding the 
woman a willing listener. When it was apparent to the 

* One of the greatest women born in America. — H. H. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


189 


medium that the woman thoroughly believed her doctrine 
she began to advise her to pray nightly for the restoration 
of her child and finally one night she announced to the 
credulous woman that at midnight four days later her 
child would he restored to her. She cautioned her that 
she must fast that day, dress her room and bed in white, 
and sleep alone that night. The instructions were fol- 
lowed to the letter. At midnight she heard the stairs 
creak. Then suddenly her door was pushed open and 
she saw something luminous approaching her bed. It 
carried a bundle and a voice announced that her daughter 
was coming back to her. After the apparition left the 
woman found a baby girl in the bed with her. Soon after 
the medium persuaded the woman and her husband to 
dispose of their property and go to a Spirit Colony in 
California. After nearly three years they came back to 
their home with practically no means but with the knowl- 
edge that the baby girl came from a foundling society in 
Chicago. 

Not the least of the evils of Spiritualism is the insanity 
which it causes. A mental specialist of high standing in 
Birmingham, England, issued a warning in 1922 quoting 
numerous cases which came under his observation and 
were the result of Spiritualistic teaching. An English 
doctor has estimated the number of such cases at a 
million. It is a well-established fact that the human 
reason gives way under the exciting strain of Spiritualism. 
The list is not limited to European countries; we have 
a goodly share of baneful results right at home. Not long 
ago Dr. Curry, Medical Director of the State Insane 
Asylum of New Jersey, issued a warning concerning the 
“Ouija-board” in which he said: 

“The ‘Ouija-board’ is especially serious because it is 
adopted mainly by persons of high-strung neurotic tend- 



190 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


ency who become victims of actual illusions of sight, 
hearing and touch at Spiritualistic seances.” 

He predicted that the insane asylums would be flooded 
with patients if popular taste did not swing to more 
wholesome diversions. 

In March, 1920, it was reported in the papers that 
the craze for the Ouija-hoards, with which it was thought 
spirit messages could he received, had reached such a 
pitch in the little village of Carrito, across San Francisco 
Bay, that five people had been driven mad. 

The available amount of evidence of this sort is almost 
unbelievable, but enough has been given to show the 
extent of the evil. The average medium works only for 
the money he or she can extract from the public; money 
obtained by moving the deepest sentiments in the human 
soul. Is it right to legally sanction the medium, to allow 
him to prey on the public — not only allowing him to take 
the earthly possessions of his victims, hut their soul, and 
oftentimes their mind as well? Spiritualism is nothing 
more or less than mental intoxication, the intoxication 
of words, of feelings and suggested beliefs. Intoxication 
of any sort when it becomes a habit is injurious to the 
body hut intoxication of the mind is always fatal to the 
mind. We have prohibition of alcohol, we have prohi- 
bition of drugs, hut we have no law to prevent these 
human leeches from sucking every hit of reason and 
common sense from their victims. It ought to he stopped, 
it must be stopped, and it would seem that the multi- 
plicity of exposures and the multitude of prosecutions 
that have followed rational investigation should be suffi- 
cient to justify, yes, demand legislation for the complete 
annihilation of a cult built on false pretence, flimsy hear- 
say evidence, and the absurdity of accepting an optical 
illusion as a fact. 



CHAPTER XII 


INVESTIGATIONS WISE AND 

OTHERWISE 

Spiritualism has been the cause of much discussion 
between men of science, men of magic, and believers in 
the “Spirit World.” Countless investigations, wise and 
otherwise, have been held in most of the countries of the 
globe. Many of them have been made by fair-minded, 
unbiased men; men who delved deep into the unknown 
with a clear conscience and whether successful or not were 
willing to give the world the result of their probings. 
Men who were not afraid to admit that their experience 
was not sufficient to cope with the medium’s skill and 
years of training and that they had been fooled. But 
there have been other so-called investigators who have 
attended seances wishing to be fooled and as “the wish is 
father of the thought” they have been misled. 

What these investigators see done and what they think 
they see done are in reality two entirely different things 
and by the time they start to write their experiences there 
are usually complications. I rarely believe a full hun- 
dred per cent the explanations I hear or read. It is to 
be said to the credit of the investigators that they do not 
deliberately make misstatements but the nature of the 
brain is such that it is almost impossible to avoid mal- 
observation and these mal-observations are the curse of 
investigation. 

Investigations under conditions favorable to the 

191 



192 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


medium cannot be termed “investigations.” They are 
nothing more than a demonstration of the medium’s 
power to divert the attention, carrying it at will to any 
place they wish and numbing the subconscious mind. 
Under such conditions they are not only able to delude 
the innocent and simple-minded hut also men whose 
accomplishments have proven their intellects to be above 
the average. 

When a medium is subjected to conditions which are, 
to say the least, disconcerting, and the usual effects are 
not obtained, almost invariably the claim is made that 
there are antagonistic waves and that the “auras” are bad, 
and if, as often happens, the result is an unqualified 
expose and the medium’s fall from power the followers 
of Spiritualism usually put forth a statement saying the 
medium overstepped the bounds in trying to give results 
and resorted to trickery, but that the majority of previous 
seances were genuine. 

Perhaps my ideas on the subject of how to conduct 
an investigation are wrong; I am fully convinced, how- 
ever, that the only way to conduct a successful one is to 
get the committee together previous to the seance, discuss 
the expected manifestations, formulate some plan for 
concerted action and if possible assign each member some 
specific part as was done in the case of Palladino’s fall. 
These parts should be rehearsed and then when the seance 
is held there is a much greater possibility of the com- 
mittee being able to judge intelligently. But when 
scientists report some feat of legerdemain as being ab- 
normal simply because they cannot detect the deception, 
I think it is time to add to each investigating committee 
a successful and reputable professional mystifier, and I 
might add that all mediums hate to have a magician 
attend a seance. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


193 


Of the many investigations, since the beginning of 
modern Spiritualism, I have selected a few of the most 
important and will try and show the reader the necessity 
of placing on investigating committees men who cannot 
be prejudiced or influenced by subdued lights or weird 
and mystifying sounds; men who use their God-given 
gift of reason to the best of their ability; men whose at- 
tention cannot be diverted by the medium; men whose 
brain cells are versatile and not overdeveloped in one 
particular direction; men who can pay strict attention to 
their commission and not be led astray by the glib-tongued 
medium’s misdirection. Then we will have real investiga- 
tions and the world at large will benefit. 

A short time before his death Henry Seybert, an en- 
thusiastic Spiritualist with a conscientious desire that 
Spiritualism should be authentically established, gave the 
University of Pennsylvania sufficient money to establish a 
chair of Philosophy on condition that a commission should 
be appointed to investigate “all systems of morals. Re- 
ligion or Philosophy which assume to represent the truth 
and particularly modern Spiritualism.” Accordingly 
there were selected from among the doctors and professors 
of the University ten men to be known as the “Seybert 
Commission.” A fairer-minded and more impartial com- 
mission could not have been appointed. Each man had 
declared himself holding an open mind and ready to 
accept whatever there was evidence to prove, but realiz- 
ing “that men eminent in intelligence and attainment 
yield to Spiritualism an entire credence,” they felt that 
one could not “fail to stand aside in tender reverence 
when crushed and bleeding hearts are seen to seek it for 
consolation and for hope.” In order to be amply pre- 
pared to do their work in an intelligent and understanding 
manner they provided themselves with the best literature 



194 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


of the day on the subject and such records of previous 
investigations as were available. After a careful digest 
of all this information the Commission was ready to begin 
its actual work in March, 1884. The entire ten men of 
the Commission were willing to believe , and their adviser, 
Mr. Thomas R. Hazard, had been a personal friend of 
Mr. Seyhert and was known throughout the land as an 
uncompromising Spiritualist ” 

The first medium to which the Commission gave its 
attention was Mrs. S. E. Patterson, a slate writing mys- 
tifier and automatic writer. The result of this first case 
was nil. After waiting patiently an hour and a half for 
the spirits to move the meeting adjourned to the disap- 
pointment of all. Mr. Hazard was especially chagrined, 
for the medium was considered “one of the very best in 
the world.” She had given him a private sitting the eve- 
ning before at which “messages from the Spirit of Henry 
Seybert came thick and fast,” but they declined to mani- 
fest for the Commission. 

This seance proved to be typical of all that fell to the 
lot of the Seybert Commission to investigate. It con- 
tinued its work for three years and investigated every case 
of importance which came before it. One of these was 
Margaret Fox, with whom the Commission had two sittings 
and became convinced that the raps came from her person. 
When she was told of its conclusion she admitted that the 
seances were not satisfactory but declined further sittings 
on the ground of ill health and because she doubted if more 
satisfactory results would follow and admitting that they 
might result in a “ confirmation ” of the Commission’s be- 
lief as to the cause of the raps. 

Many of the most prominent mediums of the day ap- 
peared before the Commission during its three years of 
work. Some of them underwent a whole series of tests 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


195 


and the phenomena covered the whole gamut from simple 
rapping to spirit photography, automatic and slate writ- 
ing, materialization, etc. In every case with but one 
exception the result was either a blank seance, a positive 
failure, or a deliberate cheat. The exception was when 
Mr. Harry Kellar was called in as a magician to demon- 
strate his power as a slate writer. The Commission was 
successfully baffled, not a single member being able to 
fathom his method until he explained it. 

The Commission carefully weighed all the evidence 
placed before it and formed its conclusions with such 
deliberation and thoroughness that the most critical on 
either side found no cause for objecting or saying that 
it was swayed or biased by any undue influence whatever. 
It pursued its work on purely rational, scientific lines, 
strenuously avoiding all conditions which might be con- 
strued as conducive to doubtful conclusions. It was 
looking for facts in a matter-of-fact way and as there was 
no opportunity for screening artifices no occult or psychic 
phenomena were proven to have existed. As an evidence 
of the fairness with which the Commission was considered 
to have done its work, I quote the following letter to the 
Commission from Dr. Henry Slade. 

“No. HE. 13th Street, N. Y., Feb. 4, 1885. 

“Dear Mr. Furness: — I take this opportunity to ex- 
press to you, and through you to the other members of 
the Seybert Commission, my hearty approval of the course 
pursued by them in their investigation of phenomena 
occurring in my presence. Fully realizing that I am only 
the instrument or channel through which these mani- 
festations are produced, it would be presumption on my 
part to undertake to lay down a line to be followed by 
the unseen intelligence, whose servant I am. Hence I 



196 A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 

did say their conditions must be acceded to or I would 
return to New York. That they did so, is evident to my 
mind from the results obtained, which I regard as a 
necessary preliminary to a continuation, when other ex- 
periments may be introduced with better prospects of 
success. It may be well not to insist on following the 
exact course followed by Professor Zollner, but leave 
it open to original or impromptu suggestions that may be 
adopted without previous consideration, which, if suc- 
cessful, would be of equal value as evidence of its genu- 
ineness, at the same time give greater breadth to the 
experiments. In conclusion, allow me to say that in 
the event the Committee desires to continue these experi- 
ments through another series of sittings with me, it will 
give me pleasure to enter into arrangements for that 

purpose. “Very truly yours, 

“Henry Slade.” 

If all the investigators were to adopt the rational meth- 
ods of the Seibert Commission they might easily discover 
the truth and no longer submit to imposition by charlatans 
nor aid and abet them by accepting as true the claims 
made by a class which they admit is of a low type, dis- 
honest, and otherwise disreputable. If sincere, they 
would assist in all reasonable attempts to detect fraud 
and not accept the irrational pretext that light and touch 
are detrimental to the health or life of a medium. 

Following in the footsteps of the Seybert Commission 
the Society for Psychical Research was organized in 
America and England for the purpose of investigating 
all so-called phenomena and freak occurrences not easily 
accountable for by natural law and in spite of the fol- 
lowing message which it is claimed was sent by the spirit 
of the late William Walker, President of the Buxton 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 197 

Camera Club, to the Crewe Circle, I believe they are doing 
good work. 

“Dear Friends of the Circle, * 

“I would not spend a moment with the Psychical Re- 
search Society, because they are nothing more or less 
than fraud hunters and I want you to come to Buxton for 
a sitting with Mrs. Walker, 3, Palace Rd., about the 8th, 
9th, of Aug. Then the spirit friends can further demon- 
strate the wondrous powers which to-day are needed more 
than ever. Peace be with you. 

“Yours faithfully, 

“W. Walker.” 

The membership of these societies is made up of men 
and women who have a certain degree of scientific train- 
ing, all classes of scholarship and all professions being 
represented. As a consequence the investigations have 
been most exhaustive and carried out by persons especially 
qualified for the work, but the results have been most 
emphatically against a belief in the return of a soul after 
death in the guise of a spirit or the occurrence of anything 
supernatural at the bidding of a medium. 

Naturally, we might not expect a general agreement 
among a group of scientific scholars who had entered the 
field of research from different points of view, but I 
believe I can say without fear of contradiction, that of all 
who have undertaken the task without prejudice the ma- 
jority agree in the opinion that all phenomena ascribed 
to spirit power developed through, and presented by, a 
medium, are without foundation in fact, and that the result 
of their investigations has agreed perfectly with the findings 
of the Seybert Commission. 

* This Spirit Message is taken from Doyle’s book, “The Case for Spirit 
Photography,' 1 English Edition. 


198 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


In January, 1869, the London Dialectical Society ap- 
pointed a committee with thirty-three members to investi- 
gate the phenomena alleged to be Spiritual manifestations 
and to report on its findings. Professor Huxley, Pro- 
fessor John Tyndall, and Mr. George Henry Lewes, were 
invited to co-operate with the Committee. Professor 
Huxley refused to have anything to do with the investi- 
gation and in the following letter, written in answer to 
the Committee’s invitation, he terms Spiritualism a 
“gross imposture.” * 

“Sir, — I regret that I am unable to accept the invita- 
tion of the Council of the Dialectical Society to co-operate 
with a Committee for the investigation of ‘Spiritualism’, 
and for two reasons. In the first place, I have no time 
for such an inquiry, which would involve much trouble 
and (unless it were unlike all inquiries of that kind I 
have known) much annoyance. In the second place, 
I take no interest in the subject. The only case of ‘Spirit- 
ualism’ I have had the opportunity of examining into for 
myself was as gross an imposture as ever came under my 
notice. But supposing the phenomena to be genuine — 
they do not interest me. If anybody would endow me with 
the faculty of listening to the chatter of old women and 
curates in the nearest cathedral town, I would decline the 
privilege, having better things to do. 

“And if the folk in the Spiritual world do not talk 
more wisely and sensibly than their friends report them 
to do, I put them in the same category. 

“The only good that I can see in a demonstration of 
the truth of ‘Spiritualism’ is to furnish an additional 
argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper 

* This and letters of Tyndall and Lewes, from “Report on Spiritualism,” by 
J. Burns, pp. 229, 230, 265. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 199 

than die and be made to talk twaddle by a ‘medium’ hired 
at a guinea a seance. 

“I am, Sir, &c., 

“T. H. Huxley.” 

“29th January, 1869.” 

A few days later Mr. Lewes declined the Committee’s 
invitation as follows: 

“Dear Sir, — I shall not be able to attend the investi- 
gation of ‘Spiritualism’; and in reference to your question 
about suggestions would only say that the one hint 
needful is that all present should distinguish between 
facts and inferences from facts. When any man says that 
phenomena are produced by no known physical laws, he 
declares that he knows the laws by which they are 
produced. 

“Yours, &c., 

“G. H. Lewes. 

“Tuesday, 2nd February, 1869.” 

Under date of December 22, 1869, Professor Tyndall 
wrote the following in response to his invitation to aid 
the Committee. 

“Sir — You mention in your note to me three gentle- 
men, two of whom are personally known to me, and for 
both of whom I entertain a sincere esteem. 

“The house of one of these, namely Mr. Wallace, I 
have already visited, and made there the acquaintance of 
the lady who was the reputed medium between Mr. 
Wallace and the supernatural. 

“And if earnestly invited by Mr. Crookes, the editor 
of the ‘Chemical News,’ to witness phenomena which in 
his opinion ‘tend to demonstrate the existence of some 
power (magnetic or otherwise) which has not yet been 



200 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


recognized by men of science,’ I should pay due respect 
to his invitation. 

“But understand my position: more than a year ago 
Mr. Cromwell Varley, who is, I believe, one of the greatest 
modern Spiritualists, did me the favor to pay me a visit, 
and he then employed a comparison which, though flat- 
tering to my spiritual strength, seems to mark me out as 
unfit for spiritual investigation. He said that my presence 
at a seance resembled that of a great magnet among a 
number of small ones. I throw all into confusion. Still 
he expressed a hope that arrangements might he made to 
show me the phenomena, and I expressed my willingness 
to witness such things as Mr. Varley might think worth 
showing to me. I have not since heen favored hy a visit 
from Mr. Varley. 

“I am now perfectly willing to accept the personal 
invitation of Mr. Crookes, should he consider that he can 
show me phenomena of the character you describe. 

“I am, sir, your obedient servant, 

“John Tyndall.” 

“G. W. Bennett, Esq.” 

Unlike the Seybert Commission, which made a formal 
report to the University of Pennsylvania immediately on 
the completion of its work, the Committee of the Dialec- 
tical Society which was appointed in 1869 did not make 
any report until 1877 and then only what seems to be 
a garbled report of sub-committees. The Spiritual 
Magazine in 1870 commented on this lack of a report 
as follows: 

“Where is the report of the Dialectical Society? This 
is the question which many people are asking, but to 
which no one seems prepared to give a satisfactory reply. 
Has this Report, which was to settle the question of 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


201 


Spiritualism, only unsettled the Dialectical Society — 
causing, as we learn, some of its principal officers and 
members to secede from it on finding that the investiga- 
tions of the Committee pointed in a different way to what 
they anticipated, and to which they had committed them- 
selves? People ask — Have the Committee come to an 
opinion on the subject or have they too many opinions?” 
The only information I have come in contact with 
referring to the Dialectical Committee and its work has 
been from Spiritualistic publications, most of them under 
authorship of Mr. James Burns, and I copy the following 
from “The Medium and Daybreak” of November 16, 
1877: 

“Objection has been taken in some quarters to the fact 
that the Society itself did not publish the Report, but 
left the matter of the publication as an open question to 
its Committee.” Again: on the 20th of July, 1870, the 
council passed a resolution — ’’that the request of the 
Committee, that the Report be printed under the authority 
of the Society, be not acceded to.” 

The exact nature of the work done by the Dialectical 
Society’s Committee can be summed up by another extract 
from the same issue of “The Medium and Daybreak” : 

“In due time the Committee presented to the Council 
the General and Sub-Reports, supplementing the same by 
a voluminous mass of evidence taken directly from the 
lips of Spiritualists practically acquainted with the subject 
— persons of the highest respectability and representing 
nearly every grade of society .” (The italics are mine.) 

Another element of discord in the Dialectical investiga- 
tion is shown by the following: 

“Attempt has been made, of course, to undervalue 
these telling researches. The non-successful Committees 
have been brought gleefully into prominence, in hope 



202 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


that positive results obtained by the successful Commit- 
tees might thereby be discredited.” 

It seems to be a published fact that this movement on 
the part of the Dialectical Society resulted in much dis- 
cord amounting to a split in the Society. Mr. Burns in 
his editorial column of the “Medium and Daybreak” says: 
“Our present issue affords an important and valuable 
addition to the cheap literature of Spiritualism. It is 
filled with useful matter for investigators, judiciously- 
extracted from the Report of the London Dialectical 
Society .” (My italics.) 

The supporters of Spiritualism lay great stress and 
importance on the fact that a few of their co-workers are 
men prominent in scientific and literary circles, but these 
are in such a minority, when compared with men of the 
same time who do not co-operate, that the Spiritualists in 
order to give force and dignity to their argument “ring the 
changes” on these few names and keep them prominently 
to the front, notwithstanding that it has been proven 
beyond question, time and again, that these sages them- 
selves have frequently been the victims of fraudulent 
mediums, sometimes knowingly. 

Doyle in his book “The New Revelation” says: 

“The days are surely passing when the mature and 
considerate opinions of such men . . . can be dismissed 
with the empty ‘all rot’ or ‘nauseating drivel’ formulae.” 
Perhaps the most prominent man in this respect and 
whose conclusions, especially in his later years, were 
pointed to by Spiritualists as being beyond dispute was 
the eminent chemist, Sir William Crookes. He became 
intensely interested in Spiritualistic research work as early 
as 1870 and for the first four years devoted most of his 
attention to D. D. Home, who seemed successful in 
baffling Crookes’ super-knowledge of scientific investiga- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


203 


tion. In 1874 he turned his attention to Florrie Cook, 
a fifteen year old medium who had been commanding 
attention for about three years. She seems to have capti- 
vated him within the first month to such an extent that 
he went to her defense in print after a “disgraceful occur- 
rence” had given rise to a “controversy ” after which he 
entertained her at his house. The most convincing test, 
though, took place at her home in Hackney. In Feb- 
ruary, 1874, he wrote: 

“These seances have not been going on many weeks 
hut enough has taken place to thoroughly convince me 
of the perfect truth and honesty of Miss Cook, and to 
give me every reason to expect that the promises so freely 
made to me by Katie will be kept. All I now ask is that 
your readers will not hastily assume that everything which 
is prima facie suspicious necessarily implies deception, 
and that they will suspend their judgment until they hear 
from me again on this subject.” 

It was not long, evidently, before the scientist awoke 
from his dream, for on August 1st, 1874, he wrote to a 
Russian lady that after four years of investigation, includ- 
ing months of experience with Home, Katie Fox, and 
Florence Cook, he found “no satisfactory proof that the 
dead can return and communicate.” A copy of this letter 
was sent by Aksakoff to Light, and was published in that 
journal on May 12, 1900. “Sir W. Crookes did not 
dissent.” * Sometime along about 1875 forty-four photo- 
graphic negatives which he had made of Katie King and 
her medium, Florrie Cook, together with what prints he 
had, were, for some reason not given, accidentally de- 
stroyed and he forbade friends who had copies to repro- 
duce them. He must have made some sort of a discovery 
for he “buried himself in a sulky silence which he would 

* “Spiritism, a Popular History,” by Joseph McCabe. 



204 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


not break” for forty years. “No one knew whether he 
was a Spiritualist or not,” his only statement being that 
“in all his Spiritualistic research he had ‘come to a brick 
wall.’ ” * In 1914 when asked plainly if he were a 
Spiritualist “he evaded the question.” Perhaps the 
change in his opinions came over him when he learned 
that Florence Cook (who became Mrs. Corner) was 
exposed f on a continental tour and sent hack disgraced. 
But in 1916, notwithstanding his statement in 1900 and 
other previous statements, he went on record in the 
December 9th issue of Light as accepting Spiritualism. 

All of this stands as proof that Professor Crookes, 
even after he was knighted, was of a vacillating mind 
and for some reason seemed to be deficient in rational 
methods of discovering the truth, or at least disinclined 
to put them in force outside of his particular line of 
science. Possibly, one of the convincing proofs to him 
may have been the “tricks” played on him by Annie Eva 
Fay, for if I am not in error his failure to detect her 
trickery was the turning point which brought him to a 
belief in Spiritualism. She told me that when Maskelyne, 
the magician, came out with an expose of her work she 
was forced to resort to strategy. Going to the home of 
Professor Crookes she threw herself on his mercy and 
gave a series of special tests. With flashing eyes she 
told of taking advantage of him. It appears that she 
had but one chance in the world to get by the gal- 
vanometer t hut by some stroke of luck for her and an 

* “Master Workers,” McCabe. 

f Florence Cook was repeatedly exposed. 

$ The “galvanometer” is an instrument used to control the medium. It is 
an electric device provided with a dial and two handles, so constructed that if 
the medium were to let go of either handle the contact would be broken and the 
dial fail to register. The medium in fooling the sitter simply placed one of the 
handles on the bare flesh under her knee and gripping it there with her leg kept 
the circuit intact and left one hand free to produce “spirits.” 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


205 


evil chance for Professor Crookes, the electric light went 
out for a second at the theatre at which she was perform- 
ing, and she availed herself of the opportunity to fool 
him. One of the tests was duplicated by Professor Harry 
Cooke, a magician. 

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that this 
brainy man was hoodwinked, and that his confidence was 
betrayed by the so-called mediums that he tested. His 
powers of observation were blinded and his reasoning 
faculties so blunted by his prejudice in favor of anything 
psychic or occult that he could not, or would not, resist 
the influence.* This seems more difficult to comprehend 
when one remembers that he did not accept Spiritualism 
in full until he was nearing the end of his earthly career. 
The weakness and unreliability of Sir William’s judgment 
as an investigator is further proved by the fact that he 
admitted that many of the tests he proposed were rejected 
by the mediums he was investigating. Such conditions 
made the test impossible and he did not seem to realize 
it, but notwithstanding all this he is one of the most 
quoted authorities in Spiritualistic realms, particularly by 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

Another who was misled by the chicanery of mediums 
which he investigated during many years of research is Sir 
Oliver Lodge. He failed to find sufficient evidence to 
prompt him to spread the teachings of Spiritualism until 
1904, after which he occasionally sent a “glow through 
the Spiritualistic world by some bold profession of belief.” 
In 1905 he was not quite ready to endorse but strongly 
commended mediums. But by 1916 he had become “the 

* An honest scientist does not dream that his confidence is being betrayed 
and that the bland innocence, the “stalling” for breath, or the almost fainting 
scenes are only camouflages to help malobservation so that the medium can 
successfully ply her trade. 



206 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


great scientist of the movement, the link between the 
popular belief and scientific theory.” It is extremely 
difficult, however, to understand how a leading scientist 
can permit his pen to lay before a thinking world such 
inconsistent impossibilities as the following: 

“A table can exhibit hesitation, it can seek for infor- 
mation, it can welcome a newcomer, it can indicate joy 
or sorrow, fun or gravity, it can keep time with a song 
as if joining in the chorus and most notably of all it 
can exhibit affection in an unmistakable manner.” 

What has all this to do with the spirit of the departed? 
How is it possible to accept such silly nonsense? Think 
of it! A table with intelligence, brains — a table with 
consciousness — a table with emotion. Yet that is the sort 
of reasoning used by Sir Oliver in his book “Ray- 
mond” and it is acceptable to all enthusiastic advocates 
of occult teaching. When we read of a mind of such 
high culture being overcome by such misfortune we are 
moved to compassion rather than censure and can only 
conjecture that the loss of his beloved son, Raymond, in 
an accursed war was the cause of it. 

Margaret Deland wrote: 

“As for the scientific value of the evidence submitted 
by Sir Oliver, one must not lose sight of the fact that by 
far the greater part of it is from the experience of others 
and accepted by him as established facts, in many cases 
with little or no investigation as applied to telepathy. 
By following his career, one familiar with the psychology 
of deception will see that he has been an exceptionally 
‘easy mark.’ ” 

In describing a private performance of what is known 
among magicians as “long-distance second-sight,” after 
detailing the tests in full, Sir Oliver writes: 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 207 

“As regards collusion and trickery, no one who has 
witnessed the absolutely genuine and artless manner in 
which the impressions are described, hut has been per- 
fectly convinced of the transparent honesty of all 
concerned. 

“This, however, is not evidence to those who have not 
been present, and to them I can only say that to the 
best of my scientific belief, no collusion or trickery was 
possible under the varied circumstances of the 
experiments.” 

From the above, the reader may form his own opinion 
as to the value of Sir Oliver Lodge’s investigation, and 
at the same time should bear in mind that his so-called 
investigation is typical of all the investigations by 
scientists and sages who have accepted Spiritualism as a 
fact or a religion(?). 

The remaining figure of this type most conspicuously 
in the spotlight on the Spiritualistic stage at the present 
time is my esteemed friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 
Very much like Sir Oliver, his opinion hung in the bal- 
ance during many years of investigation, some thirty or 
thirty-five, and it is significant that he did not manifest 
his deep concern in the cult until he too, like Sir Oliver, 
had lost a son in the late war and his heartstrings had been 
wrung by a similar grief. 

In “The New Revelation,” which was written after he 
had lost his son, he tells us that for thirty years he had 
studied the subject of Spiritualism “ carelessly ” then 
suddenly in a crisis of emotion * he sees a possible balm 
in it, but instead of realizing that this was, or should be, 
the time for real investigation, he threw up his hands 
with the cry: 

“ The objective side of it ceased to interest , for having 


The italics are mine. 



208 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


made up one’s mind that it was true there was an end of 
the matter.” * 

It is evident from his own confession that he decided 
to accept Spiritualism regardless of any real revelation 
that might present itself at a future time and the fact 
that he did cease intelligent investigation is proved by 
his own published statements quoted below. 

In a letter in the New York Evening Mail , Dec. 29, 
1921, he says: 

“I don’t need scientific proof of what I hear with my 
own ears, see with my own eyes. Nobody does. This is 
one of the fine things about Spiritualism. Each person 
can prove it for himself. It proves immortality and the 
better you live here, the further you’ll go there, pro- 
gressing finally to the perfect state.” 

In the New York World, June 22, 1922, he says: 

“That mediums I have recommended have been con- 
victed of fraud; any medium may be convicted , because 
the mere fact of being a medium is illegal by our be- 
nighted laws, but no medium 1 have ever recommended 
has been shown to be fraudulent in a sense which would 
be accepted by any real psychic student, f This same 
applies l believe to mediums recommended by Sir Oliver 
Lodge.” t 

In connection with his corroboration of Sir Oliver’s 
opinion about mediums Sir Arthur is reported to have 
said: 

“Sir Oliver is too damn scientific.” 

And the New York World of June 3rd, 1922, quotes 
him as saying: 

*The reader will do well to read Tuke’s “Influence of the Mind upon the 
Body” (or similar work) and he will find an explanation of what grief will do 
to a sensitive mind. 

f Perhaps so, but would not be accepted as evidence before any court of 
equity. 

% He has personally repeated the same thing to me. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


209 


“Most mediums take their responsibilities very seri- 
ously and view their work in a religious light. A tempta- 
tion to which several great mediums have succumbed is 
that of drink. This comes about in a very natural way , 
for overworking leaves them in a state of physical prostra- 
tion and the stimulus of alcohol affords a welcome relief 
and may tend at last to become a custom and finally a 
curse * Alcoholism always weakens the moral sense, so 
that these degenerate mediums yield themselves more 
readily to fraud. Tippling and moral degeneration are 
by no means confined to psychics. 

Far from being antagonistic to religion, this psychic 
movement is destined to revivify religion. We come upon 
what is sane, what is moderate, what is reasonable, what 
is consistent with gradual evolution and the benevolence 
of God. This new wave of inspiration has been sent into 
the world by God ” 

I will not, at this time, dissect and analyze the above 
statements, preferring to let the reader decide for him- 
self after reading them over carefully and digesting their 
literal meaning. It is sufficient to direct attention to the 
various contradictory statements and variance in the sub- 
jects of law, morality, and religion, and their application 
to the subject of Spiritualism. 

Sir Arthur is reported as saying that mediumship is 
like an ear for music and might exist in “some vulgar 
person,” but that the medium is only a carrier of mes- 
sages comparable to the boy who delivers telegrams. 
From the foregoing excerpts of Sir Arthur’s own state- 
ments it will be seen that he depends solely on his senses 
of seeing and hearing (the two weakest and most easily 
deceived) for his evidence. When once a medium has 
his confidence he believes implicitly what the medium 

* Drink is no excuse for crime. 



210 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


tells him, accepts their “hearsay evidence” as gospel 
truth, notwithstanding that he admits they are possibly 
of a vulgar, dishonest class, often addicted to alcoholism 
to a degree of debauchery. It is extremely difficult to 
harmonize these statements. 

As to the sense of sight coupled to the sense of hear- 
ing: while at Washington, D. C., Sir Arthur had a 
“sitting” with the Zancigs and after witnessing phe- 
nomena at their expert hands and minds, he gave them 
a letter of which the following is a transcript: 

“I have tested Professor and Mrs. Zancig to-day and 
am quite assured that their remarkable performance, as 
I saw it, was due to psychic causes (thought transference) 
and not to trickery. 

(Signed) “Arthur Conan Doyle.” 

Mr. Jules Zancig is a magician, a member of the So- 
ciety of American Magicians of which I have heen the 
President for the past seven years. I believe he is one 
of the greatest second-sight artists that magical history 
records. In my researches for the past quarter of a cen- 
tury I have failed to trace anyone his superior. His 
system seems to be supreme. He never at any time 
claimed telepathy and as he has not, to my knowledge, 
obtained money by pretending telepathy or spirit presenta- 
tions, it would not be fair to disclose his methods despite 
the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put the stamp of 
genuineness on his work. Undoubtedly it appeared un- 
fathomable to Sir Arthur and he therefore concluded 
that it was psychic and that there could be no other 
solution. 

Mal-observation is responsible for a lot of misunder- 
standing, consequently misrepresentation, and as a result 
much investigation is rendered valueless. Such misrepre- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


211 


sentation is not intended to deceive but is an honest 
expression of a conviction based on supposed facts by 
persons unaware that they are victims of illusion. One 
of the most, if not the most, flagrant instances of mal- 
observation I have ever known of is told of in a book by 
J. Hewat McKenzie, President of the British College of 
Psychic Science, entitled “Spirit Intercourse.” On page 
107 he says: 

“Houdini, called the ‘Handcuff King,’ who has so ably 
demonstrated his powers upon public-hall platforms is 
enabled by psychic power (though this he does not adver- 
tise), to open lock, handcuff, or bolt that is submitted to 
him. He has been imprisoned within heavily barred 
cells, doubly and trebly locked, and from them all he 
escaped with ease. This ability to unbolt locked doors is 
undoubtedly due to his mediumistic powers, and not to 
any normal mechanical operation on the lock. The force 
necessary to shoot a bolt within a lock is drawn from 
Houdini the medium, but it must not be thought that this 
is the only means by which he can escape from his prison, 
for at times his body has been dematerialized and with- 
drawn, but this will be treated in another part of this 
chapter.” 

As I am the one most deeply concerned in this charge 
I am also the best equipped to deny such erroneous state- 
ments. I do claim to free myself from the restraint of 
fetters and confinement, but positively state that I ac- 
complish my purpose purely by physical, not psychical 
means. The force necessary to “shoot a bolt within a 
lock,” is drawn from Houdini the living human being and 
not a medium. My methods are perfectly natural, resting 
on natural laws of physics. I do not dematerialize or 
materialize anything; I simply control and manipulate 
material things in a manner perfectly well understood by 



212 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


myself, and thoroughly accountable for and equally un- 
derstandable (if not duplicable) by any person to whom 
I may elect to divulge my secrets. But I hope to carry 
these secrets to the grave as they are of no material benefit 
to mankind, and if they should be used by dishonest per- 
sons they might become a serious detriment. 

On page 112 of his book Mr. McKenzie again refers to 
me saying: 

“Houdini of world wide fame, previously mentioned, 
has for years demonstrated dematerialization, and the pas- 
sage of matter through matter upon the public platform, 
while Mrs. Thompson of America, has demonstrated ma- 
terialization. Mrs. Zancig has, with her husband, pub- 
licly exhibited her psychic gift, called ‘thought transfer- 
ence,’ which is purely soul projection, in all the leading 
world centres. Miss Fay, and several well known Japa- 
nese mediums, for years demonstrated the passage of 
matter through matter, and also materialization. These 
are only a few of the many who might be mentioned, who 
demonstrate psychic gifts before the public. Such public 
mediums do not, of course, advertise themselves as per- 
forming their wonders by occult powers, or through the 
help of spirits, and the public are therefore left in ignor- 
ance of how they perform their marvelous tricks, as they 
are called. The author has tested each of those men- 
tioned, by a personal experiment from the stage, and sev- 
eral also in private, and can testify that they are mediums, 
performing most, if not all of their great wonders by 
spirit agency. They are naturally reluctant to acknowl- 
edge the fact, for the music-hall public would instantly 
resent any claims they might make that they performed 
their wonders by spirit power. Their audiences would re- 
gard such claims as ‘bunkum,’ and probably subject them 
to insult, if not to ill treatment, for the general public are 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


213 


entirely ignorant of such possibilities in the manipulation 
of psychical matter as related in this book, which a 
medium can develop with the co-operation of spirit enti- 
ties. It can be left to the reader’s imagination to picture 
the face of a music-hall manager if he were asked to 
allow upon the stage a demonstration of spirit powers. 
Horrors! The poor man would not be able to sleep for 
nights if he thought ghosts were working around his build- 
ings or upon his stage. Thus, knowing the attitude of 
men toward such things these wonders of wonders are 
produced upon the music-hall stage as clever ‘mystery’ 
tricks. The author does not wish his readers to suppose 
that the mechanical sleight-of-hand tricks carried out by 
Maskelyne and Devant and similar operators, have any- 
thing to do with the mediumistic gift, for they are a 
mechanical copy of true magic. These tricks are per- 
formed with tons of machinery, whereas the genuine 
medium can produce his wonders, if necessary, naked and 
in an empty room. 

“The last occasion on which the author, under strict 
test conditions saw Houdini demonstrate his powers of 
dematerialization, was before thousands, upon the public 
stage of the Grand Theatre, Islington, London. Here a 
small iron tank, filled with water, was deposited upon the 
stage, and in it Houdini was placed, the water completely 
covering his body. Over this was placed an iron lid with 
three hasps and staples, and these were securely locked. 
The body was then completely dematerialized within this 
tank within one and a half minutes, while the author stood 
immediately over it. Without disturbing any of the locks, 
Houdini was transferred from the tank direct to the back 
of the stage in a dematerialized state. He was there 
materialized, and returned to the stage front, dripping 
with water, and attired in the blue jersey suit in which he 



214 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


entered the tank. From the time that he entered it to his 
appearance on the stage only one and a half minutes had 
expired. While the author stood adjacent to the tank, 
during the dematerialization process, a great loss of physi- 
cal energy was felt by him, such as is usually experienced 
by sitters in materializing seances, who have a good stock 
of vital energy, as in such phenomena, a large amount of 
energy is required. Dematerialization is performed by 
methods similar in operation to those in which the psycho- 
plastic essence is drawn from the medium. The body of 
the medium may be reduced to half its ordinary weight 
in the materializing room, but in the case of dematerial- 
ization the essence continues to be drawn until the whole 
physical body vanishes, and the substance composing it is 
held in suspension within the atmosphere, much in the 
same way as moisture is held by evaporation. While in 
this state, Houdini was transferred from the stage to the 
retiring room behind, and there almost instantaneously ma- 
terialized. The speed with which this dematerialization 
was performed is much more rapid than is possible in the 
materializing seance room, where time is required for the 
essence to be crystallized into psycho-plastic matter. Not 
only was Houdini’s body dematerialized, but it was carried 
through the locked iron tank, thus demonstrating the pas- 
sage of matter through matter. This startling manifesta- 
tion of one of nature’s profoundest miracles was probably 
regarded by most of the audience as a very clever trick.” 
With the indulgence of the reader, I may be pardoned 
perhaps, if I insist that it is just what I claim it to be — 
simply a superior trick . The effect is original with me 
and was invented in the course of my professional career 
as a public entertainer, for the sole purpose of entertain- 
ing audiences by mystifying them. My success seems to 
be attested by Mr. McKenzie in his acknowledgment that 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


215 


he was deceived into the belief as to my mediumistic pow- 
ers; that I dematerialized my body and material substance, 
and materialized these things, so restoring them to a 
normal condition. 

In rebuttal of this misconception I can only say that it 
is a demonstration of mal-observation ; there was nothing 
supernatural in my performance. If I really possessed 
such abnormal powers as Mr. McKenzie credits me with, 
I should he only too ready to prove it for the enlighten- 
ment of a waiting world. I disagree with Mr. McKenzie 
that such acknowledgment would displease the “music- 
hall” or theatrical managers; on the contrary I am sure 
they would gladly open their stages to the demonstration 
and regard it as good management and showmanship. As 
to the performance of Mrs. Thompson of America, and 
Miss Fay their work is no more psychic than mine. It 
is simply another phase of magical deception, and I stand 
ready to reproduce such performances in an emergency. 

Regarding the personally conducted tests of my work, 
by Mr. McKenzie, he did no more or less than all my 
committees are privileged to do while on the stage during 
my acts. Just as all Spiritualist believers do, so Mr. 
McKenzie relied on what he thought he saw, and there- 
fore failed to affirm or negative his misguided and mis- 
directed vision by rational application of his conscious 
intelligence. Had he brought his reasoning faculties to 
bear, as all sincere, unbiased investigators should, he 
would have discovered the utter inconsistency of his de- 
ductions and never have gone on record as the author of 
such folly, without a particle of real evidence with which 
to substantiate his claim. 

Dr. Crawford, whose life was devoted to scientific pur- 
suit and research, gave the last three years of his life to 
investigating occult or psychic phenomena, and failed 



216 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


utterly. His mind became impaired and he ended his own 
life by suicide, acknowledging that his brain was over- 
taxed with abstruse problems. He was so completely non- 
plussed and befuddled by the tricks of the Goligher family, 
that he gave them publicity as being genuine mediums; 
and the unfortunate man died without discovering his own 
weakness and error. Had he retained his mental balance 
a year or two longer, he would have been disillusioned 
by his co-worker in science, my friend Mr. E. E. Fournier 
d’Albe, the result of whose investigation is to be found 
elsewhere in this volume. 

The unsuccessful investigations of those I have referred 
to are typical of all I have come in contact with or have 
learned of, and the barrier to their success has been their 
perfect willingness to be deceived. They agree to and 
tolerate the most absurd propositions as to the conditions 
under which the so-called investigations are conducted; 
just as they are fixed by the mediums themselves. They 
acquiesce in and assist the medium to produce results, and 
accept such results as conclusive evidence of the super- 
natural. 

What does it all mean? 

What importance can be attached to any one of these 
supposed phenomena as proof of the return of departed 
spirits? 



CHAPTER XIII 


HOW MEDIUMS OBTAIN INFORMATION 

We read in the newspapers of some payroll bandit who 
holds up the paymaster of a big concern and steals thou- 
sands of dollars, or of burglars entering homes and stores 
and breaking open safes and taking valuable loot, but 
these cases which we read of are nothing in comparison 
to some of the news which never reaches our ears, news of 
mediums who, because resourceful in obtaining informa- 
tion have made millions of dollars; blood money made at 
the cost of torture to the souls of their victims. 

Suppose a medium comes to your town. He advertises 
a private seance. Like the average person you are curi- 
ous and wish to be told things about yourself which you 
honestly believe no one in the world knows not even 
your most intimate friend. Perhaps you would like to 
learn some facts about a business deal, or know what is 
to be the outcome of a love affair, or it may be that you 
seek the comfort and solace that one is hungry for after 
the death of a near one. You go to this medium and are 
astounded by the things which are told you about your- 
self. 

I do not claim that I can explain all the methods used 
by mediums to obtain this knowledge. A reader might 
attend a seance where the medium would use altogether 
different means to get the facts, hut I am familiar with a 
great many of the methods of these human vultures. I 

217 



218 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


think though that it is an insult to that scavenger of scav- 
engers to compare such human beings to him but there is, 
to my mind, no other fit comparison. 

The stock-in-trade of these frauds is the amount of 
knowledge they can obtain. It is invaluable and they 
will stop at nothing to gain it. They will tabulate the 
death notices in the newspapers; index the births and 
follow up the engagement and marriage notices; employ 
young men to attend social affairs and mix intimately with 
the guests, particularly the women. 

It is seldom that one of these mediums will see a person 
the day he calls but will postpone the seance from a day 
or two to a week or more. As the person leaves the build- 
ing he is followed by one of the medium’s confederates 
who gathers enough information about him to make the 
medium’s powers convincing when the seance is held. 

It is a common occurrence for mediums of this stamp 
to hunt through the court records of property and mort- 
gages. Cases have been known where they have em- 
ployed men to read proof sheets in the press rooms of 
newspapers to find material with which to “foretell” events 
at seances. They frequently tap telephone wires. It is 
customary for these mediums to search letter boxes, steam 
open the letters, and make copies for future use. They 
have been known to buy the old letters sold to paper 
mills by big concerns, one useful letter, out of a ton of 
rubbish, being enough to pay them a great profit. It is 
also a common thing for mediums to “plant” assistants as 
waiters in restaurants for the purpose of overhearing 
conversation, especially in restaurants of the better class, 
business clubs, and luncheon clubs, where men of note 
freely discuss their plans and secrets, and in the “gilded 
lobster palaces” of Broadway and many hotel cabarets 
in other towns there are men who check, and tabulate the 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


219 


good spenders and who in one way or another, usually 
when the victims are under the influence of drink, get 
into their confidence and secure information which is sold 
for money. 

My attention was called to a case where it was said that 
a medium “planted” clerks in a Metropolitan hotel who 
would open, read, and re-seal the letters of guests. The 
medium was also able to get girls at the switchboard who 
intercepted messages and made a typewritten record of 
telephone conversations for him. 

In many apartment houses the elevator boys, superin- 
tendents and servants are bribed to make a daily report 
of the inside happenings of the house. Most of the medi- 
ums work in the dark and many of them have employed 
expert pickpockets who cleverly take from the sitters’ 
pockets letters, names, memorandums, etc., while they 
are being interviewed. These are passed to the medium 
who tells the sitter more or less of their contents. Having 
served their purpose they are returned to the pockets of 
the sitter who, none the wiser, goes out to help spread 
reports of the medium’s wonderful ability. Mediums’ 
campaigns are planned a long time ahead. They make 
trips on steamers gathering, tabulating and indexing for 
future reference the information to be overheard in the 
intimate stories and morsels of scandals exchanged in the 
smoking rooms, card rooms, and ladies’ salons. 

A man in a confidential moment told some very 
intimate secrets of his business to a chance traveling ac- 
quaintance while they sat in the smoking compartment 
of a Pullman car. Unfortunately for him this acquain- 
tance belonged to an unscrupulous gang of mediums who 
used the information to blackmail him. These gangs of 
clairvoyant blackmailers will stop at nothing. They will 
move into the apartment house in which their victim lives 



220 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


and watch his habits. When sure of ample time they 
will break into his rooms, not to steal valuables, hut in- 
formation which nets them far more than the small amount 
of diamonds and cash which they might snatch. If it 
is possible to steal the records of great political parties 
how much easier to steal the secret papers of a family. 
If you doubt that information leaks out look up some of 
the cases that have been brought to the attention of the 
courts; cases where papers from secret organizations were 
missing; where the most intimate documents have been 
given publicity. Such information is far more difficult to 
obtain than the records of the dead. The Bar Association 
protects its reputation by weeding out lawyers who prey 
on clients hut it cannot so easily discover a dishonest 
employee in a lawyer’s office who takes advantage of in- 
formation which he knows to he sacred and secret. 

Mediums are especially desirous of keeping in touch 
with disgruntled employees. There is no limit to what 
they will do. They have been known to arrange for the 
employment of accomplices as domestics and chauffeurs in 
families where they were particularly anxious to get in- 
formation and have frequently had dictagraphs placed in 
homes by fake or disloyal servants and after a month or so 
of tabulating secrets and information were prepared for a 
seance at which the sitters could only account for the 
amazing things told them by believing the medium had 
occult aid. The result was an unqualified confidence in 
the mediumistic powers which in the end cost the sitters 
an exorbitant sum. 

I heard of a medium who employed a quiet couple for 
the express purpose of attending funerals, mixing with 
the mourners, and gathering information which was even- 
tually turned into gold, and what is known as a “sure- 
fire” method is to dress some little woman demurely and 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


221 


place her in the reception room where she greets the visit- 
ors, telling them her troubles and naturally receiving their 
confidences in return. 

I have even known of two cases in which these human 
wolves, apparently out of the kindness of their hearts, 
sent girls to a young ladies’ seminary where they were 
able to wheedle from their roommates secrets which caused 
the loss of several fortunes. 

One of the biggest scoops and one that is talked of 
in hushed tones even among the fraud fraternity is that of 
an old-time circus grafter who, having been cleaned out 
in Wall Street, was at his wits’ ends to make a living. One 
evening, tired and weary from a day’s unsuccessful efforts 
to find honest employment, he overheard his two daughters 
discussing a bit of scandal they had listened to in the 
hairdressing parlor where they were employed and which 
compromised a prominent society woman’s name. The 
old man pricked up his ears, recognized the possibilities, 
and a very short time after invested what little capital he 
had and all he could borrow in a beauty parlor and with 
the information it furnished him through the aid of his 
wife and daughters he was able to set himself up as 
a medium, the venture yielding handsomely the first 
year. 

A most novel method of obtaining information was de- 
vised by a man who decided after listening to the conver- 
sation in a Turkish bath to open one himself. Most of 
his attendants were accomplices and while the patrons 
were enjoying the bath their clothes were searched, let- 
ters opened and signatures traced. The end of the first 
year found him enjoying a country home in an aristo- 
cratic neighborhood. 

During one of my engagements in Berlin, Germany, I 
made the acquaintance of the foreman of a safe factory 



222 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


who told me that he made a duplicate key * for every safe 
which passed through his hands and that he sold these 
keys to mediums but with the express understanding that 
there should be nothing stolen. The mediums assured 
him that all they wanted was an opportunity to read the 
mail and private papers which the safes contained. 

I have known of a number of cases in which the me- 
dium used a drug addict to secure information giving the 
poor tortured creature his necessary drug only in return 
for facts he wanted, knowing that when the addict was 
suffering for the drug’s stimulus he would stop at nothing 
to secure it. 

In small towns “Bible sellers” have sometimes been 
employed who were able to get exact dates, names, and 
birth places which were eventually used in some form. 
Men employed by mediums to gather information are 
often disguised as agents. One in particular I know of 
who goes from house to house trying to sell typewriters 
and washing machines on the installment plan. Even if 
he does not make a sale he can at least engage the lady 
of the house in conversation, drawing on her sympathy by 
telling of the trials and tribulations of a canvasser and a 
pitiful tale of how he was driven to such work and in 
return usually receiving the particulars of some similar 
case among her friends or relatives. Information which 
is carefully saved for use in the future. 

It has been necessary for the United States Government 
to assign special men to break up a band of fake census 
enumerators, which, going from neighborhood to neigh- 
borhood, secures complete family histories which are later 
sold to mediums for large sums of money. 

One of the most interesting cases I have heard of lately 

* The great majority of Continental gafes are opened by keys and not by 
combination locks as in America, 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


223 


is that of a young man who was greatly in debt and sought 
the advice of a medium. The medium offered to pay his 
debts if he in return would take a position which the me- 
dium would secure for him in the Bureau of Records and 
in addition to his work furnish the medium with copies of 
certain documents. Fear of his debts becoming known 
to his parents forced him to accept the offer and the 
medium got the desired data but before an improper use 
could he made of it the young man’s conscience led him 
to make a clean breast of the whole affair to the police 
and a gigantic fraud was “nipped in the bud.” 

The most dastardly and unscrupulous methods that I 
ever heard of, methods almost beyond belief, were those 
used by a medium who made arrangements with a ring of 
“white slavers” by which he paid them a certain specified 
sum for any information which the “girls” in their 
“houses” were able to secure. In addition he also estab- 
lished a number of places where, under the direction of a 
woman, the girls drew out many secrets which would 
never have been told under any other circumstances. 

One thing which makes the work of these mediums 
easier is the fact that many people tell things about them- 
selves without realizing it. I have known people to deny 
emphatically that they had made certain statements or 
mentioned certain things in a seance although I had per- 
sonally heard them say those very things not more than 
twenty minutes before. Under the excitement of the mo- 
ment their subconscious mind * speaks while their con- 
scious mind forgets. This does not escape the medium 
who takes advantage of everything which it is possible to. 

An incident related to me by the late Harry Kellar 
shows in a striking way what can be done with informa- 
tion the possession of which is not suspected nor its 

* I firmly believe in the workings of the subconscious mind. 



224 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


source accounted for by the victim. He had met in Hong 
Kong a troupe of travelling players, known as the “Loftus 
Troupe” which was featuring Jefferson De Angelus. 
Among these players was one, Jim Mass, who, during a 
discussion of Spiritualism scoffed at anyone’s belief in it. 
Kellar told him to visit his hotel the following night and 
he would be given a seance. Mass did and Kellar pre- 
tended to go into a deep trance rolling his eyes and imitat- 
ing all the other effects. While in the trance he told Mass 
his history from the time he ran away from Newark, N. J., 
relating his trials and tribulations and his efforts to make 
a success on the stage up to the time when a young lady 
committed suicide in San Francisco because of his jeal- 
ousy. Then Kellar turned to him and said: 

“What is your name?” 

“Jim Mass,” was the answer. 

“That is not your right name,” Kellar retorted, “your 
right name is James Cropsey!” 

“It is a lie,” said Mass. 

“No, it is not a lie, for I see before me your name. I 
see that your father has just died of a broken heart be- 
cause of your behaviour. I see your mother writing you 
a letter to that effect, begging you to come home and 
he her son again. I see the grave of your father and on 
the tombstone is inscribed, ‘James Cropsey.’ ” 

Kellar came out of the trance and Mass sprang up 
exclaiming : 

“My God, you have told me things that only the Al- 
mighty and I know!” 

Kellar claimed to Mass that he did not know anything 
which had transpired in the trance. The following day a 
letter came from Mass’ mother telling him of the death 
of his father. This fully convinced him that Kellar had 
strong mediumistic powers, and to such an extent that 




KELLAH AND HOLDINI 




A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 225 

when they met a few days later and Kellar told him that 
it was all a fake, Mass refused to believe it. 

Kellar explained to me that while in Manila a few 
weeks previous he had met an American traveller who, 
while they were discussing the different theatrical com- 
panies in the Orient, had told him all the incidents he had 
repeated to Mass in the supposed trance. This traveller 
had written home to Mass’ mother telling her of her son’s 
whereabouts and therefore Kellar felt fairly safe in saying 
that a letter would arrive in a few days, but in spite of 
Kellar’s confession Mass continued to believe firmly that 
he was a genuine psychic. 

Mediums have been known after gaining the sitter’s 
confidence sufficiently, to advise, through a Spirit, the 
purchase of certain stocks, bonds, or “swamp lands,” and 
a certain group which I know has made over a million 
dollars by this system. One of the keenest and most un- 
scrupulous of this class, a man who at present is abroad 
waiting for things to blow over, had a method which 
gained him a huge fortune. He would acquire the con- 
fidence of a widow whose husband had not been dead long 
and for months he would search into her private affairs 
without her knowledge. Then he would arrange for a 
meeting with her at which he would mention casually that 
he was a Spiritualist and that she could find solace and 
comfort in Spiritualism. At an impromptu seance he 
would tell her so many things of a most intimate char- 
acter that she would be convinced. After a series of 
seances he would materialize and manifest what was sup- 
posedly the Spirit of her husband who would tell her to 
turn over certain property and deeds to this medium who 
would take care of them in a business-like manner. In- 
variably the poor deluded widow would surrender to his 



226 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


machinations and that would he the last she would ever 
hear of medium or money. 

At a time when it was a British society fad to delve into 
the affairs of the beyond a house of clairvoyance was 
opened in London’s most exclusive section, the fashionable 
West End. It was exquisitely furnished and the interior 
decorating was the show work of a well-known firm. 

Though known as “Madame ” the proprietor was 

in reality the daughter of an English aristocrat. She had 
formed a partnership with a man known to society as “Sir 

” and thought of as being simply a “man about 

town,” hut was in reality the head of a desperate hand of 
the underworld. 

A rich clientele soon became accustomed to a rule which 
required sittings to be arranged for at least a week in ad- 
vance which gave Madame plenty of time for her 

confederates to investigate the client’s affairs. After 
several sittings the Madame would tell her client that she 
was exhausted but could reveal more if allowed to enter 
the atmosphere of the home and come in personal contact 
with some of the intimate belongings of the client. This 
hint invariably secured the desired invitation. Once a 
guest in the client’s home, she went from room to 
room selecting various things and finally suggesting, 
at the psychological moment, that she be shown all 
of the client’s jewelry. While this was being brought 

out Madame supposedly went into a trance 

but was in reality watching closely to see where the 
jewelry was kept. Back in her own home again she 

at once got in touch with Sir giving him such 

detailed information about the client’s house that it was 
easy for him to plan its successful robbery by his men, 
while the victims never suspected how their secret hid- 
ing places had been discovered. It only took the pair 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


227 


five years to acquire a fortune of three million dollars 
by these methods. Then Scotland Yard became suspi- 
cious of their actions and in a search for a more congenial 
climate they came to America and began working their 
system in New York. 

Sir learned through underworld channels 

of a rich eccentric who would have nothing to do with 
banks and safe deposit vaults but kept all his money 
and valuables in his home where he boasted so many bur- 
glar alarms and other protective devices as to practically 
dare thieves to rob him. After making sure that this man 

had very strong Spiritualistic tendencies Madame 

wrote him a letter in which she told him that she had been 
requested by the spirit of his dead brother to get into 
communication with him. An interview followed and 
then a seance at which the brother’s spirit was claimed to 
have been materialized. The man was so convinced that 
he had received a message from his brother that the in- 
structions to safeguard his money and valuables by placing 
them in a certain bank were followed implicitly even to 
the extent of taking them to the president (?) of the bank 
at his home instead of going to the hank with them. It is 
needless to say that the “bank president” was none other 

than Sir . This exploit netted them about four 

hundred thousand dollars. Not long after they appeared 

in Paris. Madame proceeded to dupe a jeweler 

out of a quantity of valuable jewels and with Sir 

succeeded in escaping to Germany where they tried to 
repeat the performance but were arrested. 

The majority of the people who are fleeced do not blame 
the medium but really believe that the Spirit of their de- 
parted one prescribed the loss and that the medium simply 
acted as an agent. It is only when the mediums fall out; 
when there ceases to be “honor among thieves” that the 



228 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


cases are brought to the attention of the police. Although 
I realize that it would he difficult to enforce, there should 
be a law to prevent these frauds, for as the result of in- 
vestigation I know that this particular line has netted 
many millions of dollars from unwary, trusting, and be- 
lieving people. An end ought to he put to it. 



CHAPTER XIV 


WHAT YOU MUST BELIEVE TO BE A 
SPIRITUALIST 

There is an old adage that “truth is stranger than 
fiction” hut some of the miraculous things attributed to 
the Spirits would not be told, could not be told, even by 
such a famous writer of wild fiction as Baron Munchausen, 
hut under the protecting mantle of Spiritualism these vivid 
tales are believed by millions. The conglomerated things 
you are asked to accept in good faith are almost incon- 
ceivable. If you do not then you are not a real Spiritual- 
ist. There must not be the shadow of a doubt in your 
mind as to the truth of the extravagant feats claimed to 
be performed by the Spirits through their earthly mes- 
sengers the mediums. 

Among the spirits who have come back and written 
stories, according to the Spiritualists, are no less person- 
ages than Shakespeare, Bacon, Charles Dickens who com- 
pleted his “Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Jack London, 
Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, and lately Oscar Wilde. 
Magazines have been published by the “Spirits” * and 
there are numbers of cases where entire books have been 

* The Spirit Messenger and the Star of Truth were published in 1852 by 
R. P. Ambler of Springfield, Mass* They were “edited and composed by 
spirits " The Spirit of the Sixth Circle took entire charge of the Spirit Messen- 
ger, and not even the publisher was permitted to dictate in the least. There 
were elucidations by the Spirits on “Hope, Life, Truth, Initiation, Marriage 
Relations, Evils of Society, and Destiny of the Race.” The Northwestern Orient , 
published in 1852 by C. H. White, contained communications from John Adams, 
Edgar Allan Poe, John Wesley, John Whitefield, Thomas Paine, et al. It also 
contained several poems by the Spirits. Copies are on file in my library. 

229 



230 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


claimed to be their work. I ask the reader if he believes 
the following incidents which I have selected from various 
Spiritualistic publications in my library. If so he is 
entitled to join the cult. 

The “Medium and Daybreak” of June 9, 1871, tells 
of an instance where “The Spirits ‘floated’ Mr. Herne to 
Mrs. Guppy’s in open day as was reported by us two 
weeks ago. . . . This has been speedily followed by 
other cases some of which are exceedingly well substan- 
tiated. On Saturday evening, as a circle consisting of 
about nine persons, sat within locked doors, with Messrs. 
Herne and Williams, at these mediums’ lodgings, 61 
Lambs’ Conduit Street, after a considerable time an object 
was felt to come upon the table, and when a light was 
struck, their visitor was found to be Mrs. Guppy. She 
was not by any means dressed for an excursion, as she 
was without shoes, and had a memorandum book in one 
hand and a pen in the other. 

“The last word inscribed in the book was ‘onions.’ The 
writing was not yet dry and there was ink on the pen. 
When Mrs. Guppy regained her consciousness she stated 
that she had been making some entries of expenses, be- 
came insensible and knew nothing until she found herself 
in the circle. A party of gentlemen accompanied Mrs. 
Guppy home; a deputation went in first and questioned 
Miss Neyland as to how or when Mrs. Guppy had been 
missed. She said that she had been sitting in the same 
room; Mrs. Guppy was making entries in her book, and 
Miss Neyland was reminding her of the items to put down. 
Miss Neyland was reading a newspaper in the intervals 
of conversation, and when she raised her head from her 
reading Mrs. Guppy could not be seen. It was intimated, 
through raps on the table, that the Spirits had taken her, 
and as Mrs. Guppy had every confidence in the beneficence 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


231 


of these agents, Mrs. Guppy’s abduction gave no con- 
cern. Both Mr. Heme and Mr. Williams were ‘floated’ 
the same evening. Mr. Williams found himself at the 
top of the stairs, the doors being shut all the while. 

“At the seance at the Spiritual Institution, a young lady 
who was a sceptic was levitated. At Messrs. Heme and 
Williams’ seance, at the same place, a geranium in a pot 
was brought into the room from the staircase window 
above, while doors and windows were closed. Mrs. Burns 
had a knife taken out of her hand, which ‘Katie’ (the 
Spirit) said she would deposit at Lizzie’s, meaning Mrs. 
Guppy. A gentleman had two spirit photographs taken 
from his hand. A cushion was carried from the front 
room to the hack room, where the seance was held, the 
door being shut. Mr. Williams’ coat was taken off while 
his hands were held. Mr. Herne was floated. Mr. An- 
drews, a gentleman who has not the use of his limbs, 
held a very interesting conversation with ‘Katie’ who 
promised to try and benefit him. The generous sympathy 
of these good spirits was very apparent from their eager- 
ness to help the distressed. A letter from Northampton 
intimates that similar phenomena are being produced in 
that town. These feats are doing a mighty work in con- 
vincing hundreds of the power. 

“At a seance given by Mrs. Guppy (‘Medium and Day- 
break,’ November 18, 1870), the Spirits knowing it was 
tea time, first of all brought through the solid wall the 
dishes and placed them on the table, then transported 
cake and hot tea, and in the center of the table was placed 
violets, mignonette, geranium leaves and fern leaves, 
all wet with rain, which had been gathered by the 
Spirits. 

“Heme, with whom Williams was associated, made it 
his business to have his Spirits bring in the slates from 



232 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


the hallway through the closed door. He had hooks ooze 
through the solid floors, from the library overhead, and 
drop on the seance table. Williams would he entranced 
in the cabinet and the Spirits would disrobe him much 
to his ‘entranced’ embarrassment. 

On the testimony of Orville Pitcher, John King at a 
seance stood in the full glare of the daylight for twenty 
minutes. He then retired and was followed by no less a 
personage than Oliver Cromwell, who walked around, 
embraced his medium and all the sitters. He afterwards 
controlled the medium and gave utterance to thoughts of 
a most elevated nature. 

“Mrs. Catherine Berry goes on record (‘Medium and 
Daybreak,’ July 9, 1876) that through the mediumship of 
Mrs. Guppy she had seen the Sultan of Zanzibar on the 
previous day. “He had a handsome copper-colored face 
and a large black heard, on his head he had a white turban 
such as worn by the Spirit of John King.” 

“Dr. Monck, ex-preacher, disappeared one night from 
the bed in which he slept with another man in Bristol and 
to his surprise, when he awoke, found himself in Swin- 
dom.” (Spiritualism, by Joseph McCabe.) 

“Mr. Harris, his wife and a friend, who happened to he 
a medium, were just about to sit down to a mid-day meal 
when the medium, a man named Wilkinson, was suddenly 
‘controlled.’ He fought hard against this unexpected 
behaviour of his Spirit control, hut to no avail. In his 
unconscious state he jangled money in his pocket, then 
pointed to a cigarette box which was lying on a shelf in 
the opposite corner. In that box, it seemed, was the sum 
of 17s, 6d. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were wondering what 
this all meant, when suddenly the box virtually flew from 
the shelf, passed through the closed door, and was gone. 
Mrs. Harris immediately left the room and tried to find 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 233 

trace of the box. SHE FOUND IT UPSTAIRS UNDER- 
NEATH THE PILLOW ON THE BED. The money 
was intact.” ( An Amazing Seance and an Exposure , by 
Sidney A. Mosley, page 21.) 

At a seance held on February 15, 1919, at the home of 
Mr. Wallace Penylan at Cardiff, by Mr. Thomas, there 
were present Sir Arthur, Lady Doyle, and others, number- 
ing about twenty in all. “Thomas, speaking from his 
chair (apparently still under control) then asked, ‘Is Lady 
Doyle cold?’ Then Lady Doyle said she felt ‘a little bit 
shivery’ and Thomas said, ‘Oh, you’ll be warm soon,’ 
and in a second or two something fell on her lap. At the 
close of the seance, this was found to be the Holland 
jacket which somehow had been removed from the me- 
dium.” ( An Amazing Seance, page 51.) 

Most mediums to-day have perfected the art of levitating 
tables and chairs and other pieces of furniture, though I 
doubt if any of them have ever reached the mark of per- 
fection attained by Palladino with her years of experience, 
inscrutable face and uncanny knowing when to seize op- 
portunities to fool her investigators, but you are also asked 
to believe that Daniel Dunglas Home, floated out of one 
window, over the street, and rushed through another one 
into a different room. 

Col. Olcott asks in “Communication” What is this per- 
formance compared with the experience of Webster Eddy 
(a younger brother of the Eddy Brothers) when a grown 
man, in the presence of three reputable witnesses, was 
carried out of a window and over the top of a house and 
landed in a ditch a quarter of a mile distant? 

“William Eddy was carried bodily to a distant wood 
and was kept there three days under control and was car- 
ried back again. 

“Horatio Eddy was taken bodily three miles to a moun- 



234 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


tain top and was obliged to find his way home alone the 
next morning. 

“In Lyceum Hall, Buffalo, Horatio was levitated for 
twenty-six consecutive evenings, while hound to a chair 
and he and the chair were hung on a chandelier hook in 
the ceiling. He was then lowered safely to his former 
position. 

“Mary Eddy was raised to the ceiling in Hope Chapel, 
in New York City, and while there wrote her name. Her 
little hoy, Warren, was floated many evenings in dark circles 
and squealed lustily all the while to he let down. 

“Since 1347 authenticated reports prove that similar 
experiences occurred to Edward Irving, Margaret Rule, 
St. Philip of Neri, St. Catherine of Columbine, Loyola, 
Savonarola, Jennie Lord, Madame Hauffe and many 
others.” 

Col. Olcott omitted mentioning myself. I stand ready 
to vouch for the fact that I personally floated in the air 
and levitated many times and marvelled at the ease with 
which I did it, hut I woke up later in the night. 

Horatio Eddy in a personal letter to me under date of 
July 6, 1920, wrote: 

“A hook six inches thick would not hold my history. I 
cannot give any version of our floating in the air, hut it 
is just as stated in ‘Communication.’ Webster Eddy is 
my youngest brother. My father did put live coals on 
William’s head and poured hot water down his hack. We 
all used to get horsewhipped by him to prove the devil 
was in us.” * 

In another letter dated July 3, 1922, he writes that he 

* “When William was in a trance his father tried to bring him out by 
slapping, pinching and other cruelty, and finally tried to pour boiling water 
down his back. This failing, he took a blazing ember from the hearth and 
placed it on the young man’s head, but William slept on, with only the scars 
as reminders of his parent’s deep concern for his well being and safety.” — 
“Eddy Brothers,” by Henry S. Olcott 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


235 


and his sister had been giving a joint exhibition with Ira 
Erastus Davenport, who had been ordered by the authori- 
ties in Syracuse to take out a juggler’s license, but would 
not. 

“The result was while we were holding a private seance 
we were handcuffed and taken to jail; on the way the hand- 
cuffs were taken off. We did not ride to jail but were 
dragged along through the snow for more than a mile. 
They did not put us in cells, as I fold them if they did I 
would have every prisoner’s door open before daylight, 
so two police sat up all night with us. In the morning a 
Mr. McDonald of 7 Beach Street went our bail for fifteen 
thousand dollars. 

“Our trial was to be held in Schenectady in March. We 
arrived there and had to wait three weeks, then they put 
it over to Albany three months later and our bail was 
renewed. We stayed in Albany until court was almost 
through. The day our trial was to take place the judge 
stated we claimed it to be a phase of religion and ruled 
it out of court.” 

If you are to be a Spiritualist you must believe that 
fifteen persons, several of them reporters, met in Mrs. 
Young’s parlors in 27th Street, New York City, and at 
the request of the Spirit several English walnuts were 
placed near the piano, and that the piano rose and de- 
scended on the walnuts without crushing them. Col. 
Olcott writes that seven of the heaviest persons in the 
room were asked to sit upon the instrument. The invita- 
tion being accepted Mrs. Young played a march and the 
instrument and the persons surmounting it were lifted 
several feet. 

“A portfolio containing Eliza White’s Katie King note 
and John’s duplicate was at this time in my coat pocket, 
where it had been constantly since the preceding evening. 



236 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


John broke in upon our expressions of surprise by rapping 
out ‘Do you folks want me to commit forgery for you? 
I can bring you here the blank check of any National 
Bank and sign upon it the name of any president, cashier 
or other official.’ I thanked his Invisible Highness and de- 
clined the favor upon the sufficient ground that the police 
did not believe in Spiritualism and I did not care to risk 
the chance of convincing them in case the forged papers 
should be found in my possession.” ( People from the 
Other World, Henry S. Olcott, page 458.) 

“In a house on Ferretstone Road, Hornsey, London, 
explosions like bombs were heard, lumps of coal were pro- 
pelled by some unknown agency in all directions. Brooms 
were thrown violently from a landing into the kitchen. 
Glass and china had been smashed and windows broken 
and to top it all off a boy sitting on a chair had been 
raised with the chair from the ground.” (The London 
Evening News, Feb. 15, 1921.) 

Vincenzo Gullots, a Sicilian violinist at Batavia, 111., 
well known by reason of his Chautauqua concerts, decided 
to take a bride chosen for him after death “by the com- 
panion of my most thrilling hours, my departed wife. 
She died in August and I was almost frantic with grief but 
in the night I could sense her presence and I followed 
her guidance implicitly. My new mate will comfort her.” 
(The New York World, May 17, 1922.) 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in an interview at the Hotel 
Ambassador, New York City, as reported by the New 
York World, April 11, 1922, stated that “in ‘Summer- 
land’ marriage is on a higher and more spiritual plane 
than here and is merely the mating of affinities, who are 
always happy. No babies are bom however. The spirits 
as they go about their daily tasks, keep a watchful eye 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 237 

on earthly matters and are extremely interested in the 
births here.” 

He stated that there is a plane called “Paradise” where 
“normally respectable” persons go after death and this 
“plane” is only slightly removed from this earthly sphere. 
Bad people when they die are transported to a plane con- 
siderably lower than that tenanted by respectable ones 
and they continue to sink lower and lower unless they 
repent. After a considerable probationary period they 
are able to climb into “Paradise.” The average length of 
time they stay in “Paradise” is about forty years after 
which they float to higher and still higher planes. All 
mediums have guardian angels to whom they are espe- 
cially subject, but they can communicate with other Spirits, 
the “guardian angel” acting as a sort of master-of-cere- 
monies upon such occasions. 

Sir Arthur proclaimed that he once saw his dead 
mother’s face in the ectoplasm of a medium. This was a 
few months after her death and he added, “There was not 
the slightest question about it. That was while I was in 
Australia. The face seemed as solid as in life. My mother 
wrote me a letter through the medium signing a pet name,* 
which could not have been known to the medium. There 
is no question about having been in communication with 
my son either.” 

An account in the New York American , April 5, 1923, 
says that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle told the reporters that 
be had recently hurt the ligaments in his right leg from 
the shin to the thigh, and that his son Kingsley who had 

* I gave a pseudo seance for Sophie Irene Loeb and had two slates which 
were examined by the Circle and marked. I asked if the Spirits would mani- 
fest and when the slates were opened there was a message containing a code 
word. Miss Loeb was astounded, for the message signed by Jack London con- 
tained a word which she claimed no one in the whole world knew about. I did 
it by trickery but she declared that if she had not known I was a magician she 
would have believed readily that I had psychic powers. 



238 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


died in the War had massaged the limb with beneficial 
results: “I was sitting with Evan Powell, a very unusual 
and powerful medium,” he said, “when my son Kingsley 
appeared, saying ‘it will be alright, Daddy; I will get you 
fixed up alright,’ and began massaging my leg.” 

In an article in the London Magazine , August, 1920, 
Mr. C. W. Leadbeater, a prominent member of the Theo- 
sophical Society and an authority on occult theories, 
speaking of the apport of Spirits says: “living astrally 
as they do, the Fourth Dimension is a commonplace fact 
of their nature, and this makes it quite simple for them 
to do many little tricks which to us appear wonderful, 
such as the removal of articles from a locked box or an 
apport of flowers into a closed room.” 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his book “Wanderings of a 
Spiritualist,” devotes seven pages to Charles Bailey, who 
was known as an “apport medium.” Sir Arthur defends 
Bailey, notwithstanding that he has been exposed many 
times.* Among the things Bailey claims to have apported 
are birds, oriental plants, small animals, and a young 
shark eighteen inches long which he pretended the Spirit 
guides had brought from India and passed through the 
walls into the seance room. 

Mrs. Johnson of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, told me 
personally that the Spirit of her deceased son was very 
mischievous at times and caused her a great deal of em- 
barrassment. One of his favorite jokes when she was on a 
journey was to open her travelling bag and allow all 
her belongings to be strewn about. She also told me 
that the boy’s Spirit would light the fire for her to get 
breakfast. 

A widow in Brooklyn, N. Y., became a mother and 

* A man by the name of Rider, professionally known as “Kodarz,” expoaed 
Bailey in New Zealand in 1910. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 239 

claimed that the Spirit of her husband was the father of 
the child. 

The celebrated Professor Hare, a professor of chemistry 
in the University of Pennsylvania, graduate of Yale and 
Harvard, and associated with the Smithsonian Institute of 
Washington, tells that when travelling with a boy and while 
in his room, after they had locked up the iron Balled 
Spiritscope, shaving case, etc., in his carpet bag, in some 
inscrutable manner all the contents were taken from the 
bag and fell about him in a shower. 

Anna Stuart, a medium of Terre Haute, could produce 
Spirits that would weigh from practically nothing to more 
than a hundred pounds, and Spiritualists are expected to 
believe that one human being can go into a trance and 
bring forth three or four beings with his own Spirit form. 
W. T. Stead, one of the most brilliant Spiritualists, now 
dead, claimed to have seen the Spirit of an Egyptian who 
left the “earthly life” in the time of Semir-Amide, three 
thousand years ago. “For several minutes the Spirit was 
distinctly visible to us munching an apple, but I felt so 
exhausted by the loss of magnetism and nervous as well that 
I begged him to leave us. I will never forget his soulful 
expression.” 

Florence Marryat, the daughter of Capt. Marryat, the 
famous writer of sea stories, has written a number of 
books on Spiritualism. She wrote one of the best intro- 
ductions in favor of Spiritualism that I ever read, never- 
theless some of the things she claims to have witnessed 
and lived through are of such a nature that I will only give 
a brief mention of them without comment, letting the 
reader form his own opinion. They are taken from her 
book “There is no Death.” 

She tells of her brother-in-law coming into the room 
after rifle practice and while showing his rifle it was “acci- 



240 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


dentally discharged, the ball passing through the wall 
within two inches of my eldest daughter’s head.” She 
claims that she foresaw the occurrence the night previous. 

She writes of having joined Mr. d-Oyley Carte’s “Pa- 
tience” company to play the part of Lady Jane, and tells 
that the different members of the company on different 
occasions mentioned the fact that although she was stand- 
ing on the stage she appeared to be seated in the stalls. 
This always occurred at the same time, just before the 
end of the second act. 

In another place she says: “We unanimously asked for 
flowers. It being December and a hard frost, simultane- 
ously we smelt the smell of fresh earth, and we were told 
to light the gas again, when the following extraordinary 
sight met our eyes. In the middle of the sitters, still 
holding hands, was piled up on the carpet an immense 
quantity of mold, which had been torn up apparently with 
the roots that accompanied it. There were laurestenius, 
laurels and holly and several others, just as they had been 
pulled out of the earth and thrown in the midst of us. 
Mrs. Guppy looked anything but pleased at the sight of 
her carpet and begged the Spirits to bring cleaner things 
next time. They then told us to extinguish the lights 
again and each sitter was to wish mentally for something 
for himself. I wished for a yellow butterfly, knowing it 
was December, and as I thought of it a little cardboard box 
was put in my hand. Prince Albert whispered to me 
‘Have you got anything?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but not what I 
asked for. I expect they have given me a piece of jew- 
elry.’ When the gas was relit I opened the box and there 
lay two yellow butterflies , dead of course, but none the 
less extraordinary for that.” 

While talking of a seance with Katie King she said: 
“She told me to take the scissors and cut off her hair. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


241 


She had a profusion of ringlets flowing to her waist that 
night. I obeyed religiously, hacking the hair wherever 
I could whilst she kept on saying ‘ Cut more! cut more ! not 
for yourself you know, because you cannot take it away.’ 
So I cut off curl after curl and as fast as they fell to the 
ground, the hair grew again on her head. When I had 
finished, ‘Katie’ asked me to examine her hair and see if 
I could detect any place where I had used the scissors, 
and I did so without any effect. Neither was a severed 
hair to he found. It had vanished out of sight.” 

In another place she says: “Once a conductor spoke 
to me. ‘I am not aware of your name,’ he said (and I 
thought ‘No, my friend, and won’t be aware of it just yet 
either!’) ‘but a Spirit here wishes you would come up to 
the cabinet.’ I advanced, expecting to see some friend, 
and there stood a Catholic priest, with his hand extended 
in blessing. I knelt down and he gave me the usual 
benediction, and then closed the curtain. ‘Did you know 
the Spirit?’ the conductor asked me. I shook my head 
and he continued, ‘He was Father Hayes, the well known 
priest in this city. I suppose you are a Catholic?’ I 
told him ‘Yes’ and went back to my seat. The conductor 
addressed me again ‘I think Father Hayes must have come 
to pave the way for some of your friends,’ he said. ‘Here 
is a Spirit who says she has come for a lady by the name 
of Florence, who has just crossed the sea. Do you answer 
to that description?’ I was about to say yes when the 
curtain parted again and my daughter ‘Florence’ ran 
across the room and fell into my arms. ‘Mother,’ she ex- 
claimed, ‘I said I would come with you and look after 
you, didn’t I ?’ I looked at her. She was exactly the same 
in appearance as when she came to me in England under 
the different mediumships of Florence Cook, Arthur Cole- 
man, Charles Williams and William Ellington.” 



242 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


She tells of a business man who attended a seance- 
every night and presented a white flower to the Spirit of 
his wife who had died on her wedding day eleven years 
before.* The book is full of such incidents as these but 
I think enough have been repeated to show the reader 
what it is necessary to believe to be a good Spiritualist. 

fin Judge Edmonds’ book “Spiritualism,” we read 
that it was customary to receive on blank sheets of paper 
messages from the Spirits of well-known men; that Ben- 
jamin Franklin came in accompanied by two other Spirits; 
that a pencil got up of its own accord and wrote five lines 
of ancient Hebrew; that books were levitated from a table 
numerous times, and a number of other incidents which 
drew upon the reader’s imagination. 

Daniel Dunglas Home in testifying in July, 1869, as 
reported in the London Times, told of an incident which 
had occurred several years previous. “We were,” he said, 
“in a large room in the Salon de Quatorze. The Emperor 
and Empress were present, — I am now telling the story as 
I heard the Emperor tell it, — a table was moved, then a 
hand was seen to come. It was a very beautifully formed 
hand. There were pencils on the table. It lifted, not the 
one next to it, but the one on the far side. We heard the 
sound of writing, and saw it writing on fine note paper. 
The hand passed before me and went to the Emperor, 
and he kissed the hand. It went to the Empress; she 
withdrew from its touch, and the hand followed her. The 
Emperor said, ‘Do not be frightened,’ and she kissed it too. 
The hand seemed to be like a person thinking and as if 

* Without any reservation she says she has investigated the majority of 
mediums and given them a hundred per cent clean bill. She writes that Eglinton 
actually materialized the spirit of Grimwaldi, the great clown. Eglinton was 
detected on four different occasions and so far as I have been able to learn, 
almost every medium she mentions in her books has, at some time or other, been 
detected and exposed. 

f See Appendix F. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


243 


it were saying, ‘Why should I?’ It came hack to me. It 
had written the word ‘Napoleon’ and it remains written 
now. The writing was the autograph of the Emperor 
Napoleon I, who had an exceedingly beautiful hand.” 
Mr. Home also said that the Emperor of Russia as well as 
the Emperor Napoleon, had seen hands and had taken 
hold of them, “when they seemed to float away into thin 
air.” 

Such are the things Spiritualists are expected to believe 
and do believe. I could continue to recite incidents ad 
infinitum , ad nauseam, hut I believe the reader can form 
his own judgment from the above. It is the kind of ma- 
terial which drives people insane for when some poor, 
sick, human being is just on the verge of recovery such 
nonsensical utterances often overthrow reason. Is it any 
wonder that the population of our insane asylums is 
swelled with “followers” who have attempted to believe 
these things? 



CHAPTER XV 


MAGICIANS AS DETECTORS OF FRAUD 

The alacrity with which Spiritualists seize upon letters 
or other statements of magicians that they believe the 
so-called spirit manifestations which they have witnessed 
were not accomplished by means of legerdemain hut were 
attributable to supernatural or occult powers has astonished 
me and while I intend to refute them I want to call atten- 
tion at the same time to the incompetence of the opinion 
of the ordinary magician with a knowledge of two or three 
experiments in Spiritualism who stands up and claims 
that he can duplicate the experiments of any medium who 
ever lived. 

My personal opinion is that notwithstanding the fact 
that innumerable exposures have been successfully made, 
such fact is no proof that any investigator, legerdemain 
artist or otherwise, is fully capable of fathoming each and 
every effect produced. 

Some magicians with a knowledge of pseudo-Spiritual- 
istic effects imagine that they have all they need to qualify 
them as investigators, and should anything transpire at a 
seance which they cannot explain they are mystified 
into temporary belief and write letters or make statements 
which they are quite likely to regret as the years roll on.* 

A good card “shark” or “brace game” f gambler can 

* Maskelyne, Kellar, and Hoffmann were all three magicians who changed 
their minds. 

fAny prepared gambling device or game, like electrically controlled steel 
dice; roulette; pointer and arrow revolving artifice; prepared cards, either 
marked, concave or convex cut, which gives the dealer the advantage at all times. 

244 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


245 


cheat and fleece the slickest sleight-of-hand performer 
that ever lived, unless the performer has made a specialty 
of gambling tricks. It seems strange, but it is true, that 
card magicians are poor gamblers, and mediums, like the 
gamblers, resort to deception and take advantage of the 
sitters at all angles. 

It is manifestly impossible to detect and duplicate all 
the feats attributed to fraudulent mediums who do not 
scruple at outraging propriety and even decency to gain 
their ends. A slick medium will even resort to drawing 
on the sitters * for desired information by recourse to 
what may be palmed off for a mere lark, and if the bait is 
swallowed by the sitter the circumstance is turned to good 
account for the perpetration of deliberate fraud to his con- 
sternation and bewilderment. 

Again many of the effects produced by mediums are 
impulsive, spasmodic, done on the spur of the moment, 
inspired or promoted by the attending circumstances, and 
could not be duplicated by themselves. Because the cir- 
cumstances of their origin and performance are so peculiar 
detection and duplication of Spiritualistic phenomena is 
sometimes a most complex task. Not only are mediums 
alert to embrace every advantage offered by auto-sugges- 
tion but they also take advantage of every accidental oc- 
currence. For instance, my greatest feat of mystery was 
performed in 1922 at Seacliffe, L. I., on the Fourth of 
July, at the home of Mr. B. M. L. Ernest. The children 
were waiting to set off their display of fireworks when it 
started to rain. The heavens fairly tore loose. Little 
Richard in his dismay turned to me and said: 

Brace games include everything from a put and take to the changing of a black 
bag on the top of an innocent looking chiffonier. The games, while appearing 
to be governed by the law of chance, are secretly controlled by the gambler, or 
his confederate, in so subtle a manner that it is impossible for the poor dupe, 
who wagers on the result, to detect it. 

* Known as fishing. 



246 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“Can’t you make the rain stop?” 

“Why certainly,” I replied and raising my hands said 
appealingly, “Rain and Storm, I command you to stop.” 

This I repeated three times and, as if by miracle, within 
the next two minutes the rain stopped and the skies be- 
came clear. Toward the end of the display of fireworks 
the little fellow turned to me and with a peculiar gleam in 
his eyes said: 

“Why, Mr. Houdini, it would have stopped raining 
anyway.” 

I knew I was risking my whole life’s reputation with the 
youngster but I said: 

“Is that so? I will show you.” 

Walking out in front I raised my hands suppliantly 
toward the heavens and with all the command and force 
I had in me called: 

“Listen to my voice, great Commander of the rain, and 
once more let the water flow to earth and allow the 
flowers and trees to bloom.” 

A chill came over me for as if in response to my com- 
mand or the prayer of my words another downpour 
started, hut despite the pleading of the children I re- 
fused to make it stop again. I was not taking any more 
chances. 

I am also aware of the fact that there are effects pro- 
duced by magicians which they declare are accomplished 
by natural agencies, which other magicians are entirely 
unable to account for or satisfactorily explain. A notable 
case was a card performance by Dr. Samuel C. Hooker 
which included the levitation of a life-sized head of an 
animal, possessed of life-like movement while in a state 
of suspension and still there were no visible means of 
support. A number of these seances were given to groups 
of magicians only. On one occasion a dozen or more of 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 247 

the most expert professional magicians were in attendance, 
but no one could offer a satisfactory solution. 

Many magical mysteries as practised for entertainment 
are just as incomprehensible as so-called Spiritualistic 
Phenomena and it is not to be wondered at that even minds 
trained to analytical thinking are deceived and misguided. 
Were I at a seance and not able to explain what transpired 
it would not necessarily be an acknowledgment that I 
believed it to be genuine Spiritualism. The fact that I 
have mystified many does not signify that what I have 
done, though unexplainable to them, was done by the 
help of the Spirits. Mr. Kellar frequently, particularly 
during the last two years of his appearance on the stage, 
said to the audience: 

“Do not be ashamed if I mystify you; I have seen Hou- 
dini and his work and I do not know how he does it.” 

The simple fact that a thing looks mysterious to one 
does not signify anything beyond the necessity of analytic 
investigation for a fuller understanding. But to return 
to possibilities; I believe that the great majority of so- 
called manifestations can be duplicated but I am not 
prepared to include all, because, as before explained, some 
are spontaneous, and cannot be reproduced by the me- 
diums themselves unless the identical opportunity should 
present itself, which is as uncertain as lightning striking 
twice in the same place — possible but improbable. 

It would be extremely difficult, if not out of the ques- 
tion, to reproduce much of the “phenomena” by descrip- 
tion as given by those who have witnessed it. The lapse 
of time and the fact that a story twice told never loses, 
renders such reproduction extremely doubtful. Were I 
to be challenged to duplicate any particular phase as pre- 
sented by a medium, permission would have to be granted 
to allow me not less than three demonstrations. At the 



248 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


first, not wishing to accept any one’s word as to what 
happened I should want to see the manifestation so that 
there would be no surprise attack on my mind afterwards. 
At the second sitting I would be prepared to watch what I 
had seen at the first sitting and the third time I would 
try to completely analyze for duplication. It might be that 
some peculiar formation or years of special practice en- 
abled the medium to do a certain action and naturally it 
would require at least three seances to become thor- 
oughly cognizant of the modus operandi , or the manipu- 
lative process used. If there were no fraud, then there 
could be no objection to the demonstrations. 

Let us dissect a few of the magician’s statements. 
First: Belachini, conjuror to the imperial German Court, 
is claimed by Spiritualists as a great magician counte- 
nancing and acknowledging the genuineness of Spiritual- 
ism, but by no possible stretch of imagination could he 
be so classed despite the efforts of modern Spiritualists 
to prove that he was, for the very nature of his tricks belie 
his statement. No present day magician would permit 
him to be mentioned as an authority on Spiritualism not- 
withstanding the fact that Spiritualists are trying to prove 
from his letters that he was, just as they have ever since 
the letters were written. 

I have received reports from Karl Wilmann, of Ham- 
burg; A. Herman, of Berlin, and Rosner of Haisenhaid, 
to the effect that Belachini was solely an apparatus or 
mechanical conjuror with an adroit and daring address. 
In fact, his unbounded self-confidence won him the posi- 
tion for which he is famous. He was performing for 
Kaiser Wilhelm I. who sat amazed at his suave dexterity. 
The climax of the performance came when Belachini, 
bowing, proffered a pen to Wilhelm. 

“Take this, your Majesty,’’ he requested, “and at- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


249 


tempt to write with it. I warn you it is a magical pen 
and subject only to my control; I can write anything with 
it or cause anything to he written; you cannot.” 

Wilhelm laughingly took the pen with a confident mien, 
hiding his real awe of Belachini. He applied it to the 
paper before him hut in spite of his most careful efforts, 
the pen balked, spluttering and splashing ink, while 
Belachini stood by smiling. 

“Well,” said the Kaiser, “tell me what to write.” 

Belachini reflectively caressed his chin, then replied 
with a dry smile: 

“Write this. I hereby appoint Belachini Court Con- 

• 99 

juror. 

The monarch chuckled at the wit and without difficulty 
wrote and signed the order. 

A second, famous in his day, was “Herr Alexander,” a 
magician whose full name was Alexander Heinberger. 
He gave seances at the White House for President Polk 
who sent him to South America once on a man-of-war. 
The President was willing to believe that Heinberger was 
guided and aided by the Spirits but Heinberger would 
neither affirm nor deny the suspected origin of his feats 
but like a good showman left his observers to their own 
deductions as was the practice of the Davenport Brothers. 
He lived to be ninety years old, and was a most remarkable 
old man. I visited him at his home in Munster, West- 
phalia. 

Sometimes a misunderstanding entangles a magician 
with Spiritualism. The following instance comes to my 
mind. It is a popular belief among Spiritualists that 
certain letters and statements bearing the signature of 
Robert Houdin are acknowledgments of his belief in Spir- 
itualism. On the contrary they refer simply to certain 
acts of clairvoyance purported to have taken place at the 



250 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


instance of one Alexis Didier. The first statement has 
been translated as an interview of considerable length 
which is concluded as follows: 

“Ah, Monsieur (Alexis Didier, as addressed by Hou- 
din), that may seem so to a man of no experience in these 
matters, to the ordinary person, — though even then such 
a mistake is hardly admissible, — but to the expert! Just 
consider. Monsieur, that all my cards are faked, marked, 
often of unequal sizes, or at least artistically arranged. 
Again I have my signals and telegraphs. But in this case 
a fresh pack was used which I had just taken out of its 
wrapper, and which the somnambulist cannot have studied. 
There is another point, where deception is impossible, 
namely, in the handling of the cards: in the one case, the 
entire artlessness of the performance, in the other, that 
tell-tale air of effort which nothing can entirely disguise. 
Add to this his total blindness, for need I insist on the 
impossibility — the absolute impossibility — of his having 
seen. Besides, even supposing he could see, how can we 
account for the other phenomena? With regard to my 
own ‘second-sight’ performances, without being able to 
divulge my secret to you now, hear in mind that I am 
careful to tell you every evening, that I only promise a 
second sight! Consequently in my case a first sight is 
indispensable. 

“The following day Robert Houdin gave me (Alexis 
Didier) the following signed statement: 

“ ‘While I am by no means inclined to accept the com- 
pliments which M is kind enough to pay me, and 

while I am particularly anxious that my signature should 
not be held to prejudice in any way my opinion, either for 
or against magnetism, still I cannot refrain from affirming 
that the incidents recorded above are ABSOLUTELY 
CORRECT, and that the more I think about them the 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


251 


more impossible I find it to class them with those which 
form the subject of my profession and of my performances. 

“ ‘Robert Houdin. 

“ ‘May 4th, 1847.’ ” 

It will be seen at a glance that the signature in this 
case refers to a mystification by card handling, clairvoy- 
ance, forecasting, etc. His second letter was written a 
fortnight later and is as follows: 

“Monsieur, (Alexis Didier) as I informed you, I was 
anxious to have a second sitting. This sitting which was 
held at Marcillet’s house yesterday proved even more 
extraordinary than the first, and has left me without a 
shadow of a doubt as to the clairvoyance of Alexis. I went 
to this seance, fully determined to keep a careful watch on 
the game of ecarte, which had astounded me so much 
before. This time I took much greater precautions than 
at the first seance, for distrusting myself I took a friend, 
whose natural imperturbability enabled him to form a cool 
judgment and helped me to steady mine. I append an 
account of what took place, and you will see that trickery 
could never have produced such results as those which I 
am about to recount. 

“I undo a pack of cards, which I had brought with me 
in a marked wrapper to guard against another pack being 
substituted for it. I shuffle and it is my deal. I deal with 
every precaution known to a man well up in all the dodges 
of his profession. It is all of no use, Alexis stops me, 
and pointing to one of the cards that I had just placed 
in front of him on the table, says : 

“ ‘I’ve got the King.’ 

“ ‘But you can’t possibly know yet; the trump card has 
not been turned up.’ 

“ ‘You will see,’ he replies. ‘Go on.’ 



252 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“As a matter of fact I turn up the eight of Diamonds, 
and his was the King of Diamonds. The game was con- 
tinued in an odd enough manner, for he told me the cards 
I had to play, though my cards were hidden under the 
table and held close together in my hands. To each lead 
of mine he played one of his own cards without turning it 
up, and it was always the right card to have played against 
mine. I left this seance then in the greatest possible state 
of amazement, and convinced of the utter impossibility of 
chance or conjuring having been responsible for such mar- 
vellous results. — Yours, etc., 

(Signed) “Robert Houdin, 
“16th May, 1847.” 

I here embrace the opportunity to make a correction of 
a statement in “The Unmasking of Robert Houdin” (page 
287). The record and source of information at that time 
was published in Berlin, Germany. It gave the impres- 
sion that the “letters” cited above referred to Spiritualistic 
phenomena, but now, having come into possession of a 
true translation of these documents complete, as pub- 
lished by the Society for Psychical Research,* I am of the 
opinion that Houdin did treat the subject of Spiritualism 
with conservative prudence and impartiality, as recorded 
by Professor Hoffmann. 

But I wish to say that in my estimation of Robert Hou- 
din, despite his wonderful reputation and record as men- 
tioned in Larousse’s Encyclopedia, I cannot agree with his 
statements, because he misrepresented so much in his 
“Memoirs of a Magician.” In “The Unmasking of Robert 
Houdin” I devoted a whole chapter to his ignorance of 
magic and by investigating I have found that he was not 
competent as an investigator of the claims of Spiritualists. 

* Society for Pgy chical Reee&rc k Proceeding*, VaL XIV, pp. 380, 381. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


253 


It came quite as a shocking surprise to me to find that 
the letters which were supposed to refer to Spiritualistic 
seances, and which have been quoted so often as being 
such, refer only to his experience with Alexis the clair- 
voyant. It must he apparent, even to the casual observer, 
that they have no hearings whatsoever on Spiritualism, but 
refer only to sittings with a clairvoyant in a game of sharp 
card practice. Knowing, as I do now, what it all meant, 
the fact that he wrote the letters does not surprise me in 
the least. I believe a lot of things transpired in that room 
which he could not see, or know whether there was con- 
federacy, for clairvoyants as well as mediums often get 
information from the most unexpected sources. Clairvoy- 
ance, like Spiritualism, was not in the direct line of pro- 
fessional observation to Robert Houdin. What would he 
or any of his confreres, who were supposed to be adepts 
at that time, say if they could visit a seance of some of 
our present day clairvoyants who are appearing before the 
public and making use of radio, wireless, induction coils, 
etc. ? What a wonderful hunch of letters they might write 
because of the simple fact that they could not tell how the 
effects were produced. It is ridiculous for any magician 
to say that the work he witnesses is not accomplished by 
conjuring or legerdemain simply because he cannot solve 
the problem. 

As to his qualifications for adjudging the work of a 
clairvoyant, we have but to revert to his own narration of 
the origin and development of second-sight as used by 
himself. This account can he found in the English edi- 
tion of his Memoirs: 

“My two children were playing one day in the drawing- 
room at a game they had invented for their own amuse- 
ment; the younger had bandaged his elder brother’s eyes 
and made him guess the objects that he touched, and when 



254 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


later he guessed right they changed places. This simple 
game suggested to me the most complicated idea that 
ever crossed my mind. Pursued by the notion, I ran and 
shut myself in my workshop, and was fortunately in that 
happy state when the mind follows easily the combina- 
tions traced by fancy. I rested my head in my hands, 
and in my excitement laid down the first principles of 
second sight.” 

It is hard to reconcile this statement with truth in view 
of the fact that memory training, as he describes it, was 
in vogue and practised long before * his time and is not 
the way second sight is learned. It could not have been 
discovered or invented by him except coincidentally by 
his utter lack of knowledge bearing on the methods of 
seership and clairvoyance as practised either in his time or 
antiquity. Let me explain clearly, and I hope once for 
all, the valuelessness of his letters as far as they relate to 
Spiritualism and clairvoyance. 

In the first place the blindfold test f as produced by 
Alexis Didier to mystify Houdin Putting cotton on the 
eyes and covering it with a handkerchief is now used by 
amateurs in the cheapest kind of what we term “muscle 
reading.” There is not the slightest difficulty in seeing 
beneath such a bandage, sometimes over it, and the range 
of vision can easily be determined by a test. In Paris I 
saw a mysterious performer, named Benoval, who had his 
eyes glued together with adhesive paper, on top of it 
cotton was placed, and over the cotton a handkerchief, 
but he danced around bottles and burning candles with- 
out any difficulty. 

Regarding the information given clairvoyantly to Ma- 

•“Second sight” was presented by Pinetti, the celebrated Italian magician, 
at the Haymarket Theatre, London, England, Dec. 1, 1784. 

f A girl named Shireen is holding a similar seance to-day and is able to hit 
a bulls-eye with a rifle. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


255 


dame Robert Houdin during another seance with Alexis; 
Houdin at that time was one of the best known characters 
of Paris, a public person, and it was the easiest thing in 
the world for Alexis to gather information concerning him 
and his family. Houdin may not have been acquainted 
with the subtlety of what we now term “fishing,” “stall- 
ing,” or “killing time,” in order to get information or put 
something over. He might have been mystified but his 
knowledge of Spiritualism and clairvoyance was nil 
according to his own statement. 

One of the demonstrations presented by Alexis to 
mystify Houdin was the reading from a hook, by the seer, 
several pages in advance of a page designated by the per- 
son holding the book at the time. There does not seem 
to be any really authentic details reported regarding the 
exact performance of this man, Alexis, consequently much 
must of necessity he left to conjecture and a knowledge of 
the orthodox methods for doing such things. Such infor- 
mation as there is available seems to have passed through 
several hands and in all probability was first presented to 
the public through a Spiritualistic publication. How- 
ever, the particular effect referred to is neither new nor 
strange but has always been a feature in second sight acts 
and with clairvoyants. The reading of a hook from 
memory is quite possible to persons of abnormal mind or 
special training in co-relative memorizing; a very clever 
system with surprising possibilities. There are many 
cases on record of persons who, having read a book once, 
could repeat every word and even tell where the punctu- 
ation was. The ability to recite entire chapters or parts 
of them is much more common, and is not difficult for 
trained minds such as are possessed by members of the- 
atrical stock companies, who are oftentimes obliged to 
commit to memory simultaneously three or four plays, and 



256 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


this too while on the road. In order to be prepared to 
play one part in the afternoon and an entirely different 
one the same night, stock actors frequently have to do 
some marvellous memorization work on short notice. It 
is not an exception but the rule. They get long parts with 
from fifty to a hundred and fifty “sides,” each side con- 
taining from one to ten speeches. The foster-mother’s 
speech in “Common Clay” is over three pages, and the 
Duchess’ in the first act of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Wild- 
mere’s Fan” is about four pages. The well-known actress. 
Miss Beatrice Moreland, told me that she memorized them 
both in an hour and was almost letter perfect. The actor’s 
rule for memorizing parts is to take ten pages first and 
when they have been committed to memory take ten more. 
If such feats can be done as the result of training how 
easy it must be for an abnormal mind to memorize a 
book. 

There comes to my mind a phenomenal memory feat 
by a blind slave boy called “Blind Tom.” He would listen 
while a composer played an original composition. As 
soon as the composer finished Tom seated himself at the 
piano and reproduced the entire piece with all the com- 
poser’s delicacy of shading and technique. 

There is a case on record of a memory performance, I 
think in Rousseau’s time, where a poet read a piece of 
poetry, a long monody, to the King. At its conclusion the 
King said: 

“Why, that is quite an old story, I have heard it before. 
As a matter of fact the man who related it to me is in 
my palace now; I will send for him and have him recite 
it for you.” 

He spoke to a servant who left the room and returned 
in a few minutes with the memory man who stood in the 
center of the room and recited the entire poem. It ap- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


257 


pears that the King, wishing to mystify the poet, had the 
memory man hidden in a closet where he could hear the 
poem read. 

Inaudi, a Frenchman, has given performances both in 
America and Europe in which he looks at a blackboard 
covered with figures written by a committee, then turns 
around and immediately tells correctly every figure on the 
board and its position; adds, subtracts, and multiplies 
them, with lightning-like rapidity, and all without looking 
at the board a second time. He makes no claim to psychic 
or clairvoyant powers but simply explains his wonderful 
performance as being the result of a photographic memory. 

I might repeat such instances indefinitely but I think 
I have given enough to substantiate my claim of prece- 
dence for God’s natural laws and their marvellous, even 
incomprehensible working, over any so-called supernatural 
endowment of a class of people so thoroughly disqualified 
by all known laws of moral sociology, as many professional 
mediums are admitted to be by their most ardent sup- 
porters. 

Even such an eminent mystifier as Robert Houdin can 
misjudge when it comes to fathoming the so-called mani- 
festations of the professional medium. As I have ex- 
plained in “The Unmasking of Robert Houdin,” page 291. 
he makes two flagrant errors in attempting to explain the 
Davenport Brothers’ trick. First he claims that “by dint 
of special practice on the part of the mediums, the thumb 
is made to lie flat in the hand, when the whole assumes a 
cylindrical form of scarcely greater diameter than the 
wrist.” Secondly, he declares that the Davenport Broth- 
ers possessed the power of seeing in the dark as the result 
of practice or training. 

Releasing myself from fastenings of all sorts, from 
ropes to straightjackets, has been my profession for over 



258 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIKITS 


ihirty-five years, therefore I am in a position to positively 
contradict Houdin’s first statement. I have met thousands 
of persons who claimed that the rope trick as well as the 
handcuff trick was accomplished by folding the hand to- 
gether or by making the wrist larger than the hand, but I 
have never met the man or woman who could make the 
hand smaller than the wrist. I have even gone so far as 
to have iron bands made to press my hands together, hop- 
ing to make them smaller than my wrists eventually, but 
it was no use. Even if the thumbs were cut away I believe 
it would he impossible to slip a rope that is properly 
bound around the wrist. Furthermore I know that Houdin 
was wrong in regard to the Davenports because of what 
Ira Erastus Davenport himself told me. 

Equally preposterous is the gift of seeing in the dark 
with which Houdin endowed the Davenports. Professor 
Hoffmann defends Houdin by citing instances of prisoners 
who had been confined in a dungeon for an indefinite 
period and had learned to see in the dark. Ira Erastus 
Davenport laughed at the idea and Morelle, who was con- 
fined in a dungeon for a number of years, told me that 
all the years he had spent in darkness did not accustom 
his eyesight at all and that to have seen an article plainly 
he would have been forced to hold it close to his eyes 
and even then would have had to stretch his imagination. 

Baggally, an investigator, a member of the Society for 
Psychical Research, London, England, emphatically re- 
cords that he believes the Zancigs are genuine telepathists, 
and my friend. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though he says 
that Zancig has given proof numerous times that he works 
with a code, nevertheless has stated in writing that he 
believed the Zancigs to be genuine. I want to go on record 
that the Zancigs never impressed me as being anything 
but clever, silent and signal codists. Zancig has admit- 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


259 


ted freely to members of the Society of American Magi- 
cians, of which he is a member, that they were not telepa- 
thists but, as we term it, “second sight artists.” They 
simply have a wonderful code which the public cannot 
detect. It is interesting to know that after Mrs. Zancig’s 
death, Zancig took a street-car conductor from Philadel- 
phia and broke him in to do the act. This young man 
soon quit his teacher, married, and began presenting the 
act with his wife. Then Zancig took young David Bam- 
berg, an intelligent son of Theodore Bamberg, one of 
our well-known magicians. The boy proved exceptionally 
clever but on account of unexpected circumstances he left 
and went abroad. Zancig came to me for an assistant and 
I introduced him to an actress. He said he would guar- 
antee to teach her the code inside of a month, but they 
never came to an agreement on financial matters. Zancig 
has now married again, this time a school teacher, and they 
are doing a very clever performance. In passing I would 
note that in 1906 or 1907 I engaged Zancig to go with 
my show. I had ample opportunity to watch his system 
and codes. They are swift, sure, and silent, and I must 
give him credit for being expertly adept in his chosen 
line of mystery, but I have his personal word, given before 
a witness, that telepathy does not enter into it. 

Charles Morritt has a code for second sight which is 
very simple and can be taught to anyone in thirty minutes. 
He has given me the secret. He gave this code to a banker 
who performed it with his sister, and Morritt, although 
he had taught the signals, could not follow or detect them 
once they began to work smoothly. Of course he knew 
what they were doing but simply could not follow them. 

Regarding the possibility of using codes and cues before 
others without being detected I can say positively that it 
is not only possible but simple and practical. I had a 



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A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


fox terrier by the name of “Bobby” that I trained to pick 
up cards by a cue. On May 31, 1918, I performed with 
this dog before the Society of American Magicians and I 
do not believe that there was one in the audience who 
detected my silent cue. I spoke about this to a number of 
expert professionals who thought, to all intents and pur- 
poses, that Bobby was listening to my speech, whereas 
I was silently cueing him all the time. I do not wish to 
expose the silent cue as I know that the great dog trainers 
of the world use it and it would not be fair to them to 
make it public. I was able to give Bobby his silent cue 
in any room or even a newspaper office and the spectators 
could watch me closely all the time because I never made 
a move they could see or a sound they could hear. 

It is common to train other animals in a similar way. 
During one of my tours in Germany I saw a horse called 
“Kluge Hans” that was able to spell, add, subtract, pick 
out cards, and with his feet make one tap for yes and two 
taps for no. Kluge Hans fooled the professors for a long 
time but finally it came out that he got his cues from the 
trainer’s assistant. It is not generally known that, owing 
to the position of his eyes, a horse can look backwards to 
a certain degree and the investigators did not notice the 
assistant who stood just back of the horse’s head. 

At one time William Eglington, an English medium, 
was undoubtedly considered by Spiritualists the most pow- 
erful professional psychic not only in England but 
throughout a greater part of Europe. In 1876 he held 
the palm as a successor to Slade in slate writing tricks. 
He was a strong card for the cause and was extolled and 
lauded to the skies by the Spiritualistic press. He pro- 
duced varied phenomena in addition to his slate writing 
effects, such as the movement of articles, production of 
Spirit lights, and materialization. The Spiritualists have 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


261 


told that “he was so skillful that several practised con- 
jurors as well as many investigators” were at a loss to 
detect or account for his methods. That may have been 
so. Half a century ago conjurors were not up on Spirit- 
ualism as they are to-day, and besides, it must be conceded 
that even conjurors are not immune to being deceived. 
Nevertheless there were conjurors and lay investigators 
fully qualified to discover and expose his frauds. 

In 1876, while in his prime as a medium, he was ex- 
posed in the materialization of an Arab. This Arab’s 
flowing beard and draperies were very familiar to English 
Spiritualists and as proof of the actual materialization 
sitters were permitted to cut fragments from the beard 
and robes. Archdeacon Colley, an interested member of 
a circle of sitters, suspecting fraud, secured some clippings 
and a few days later when opportunity offered “he found 
in Eglinton’s portmanteau a false beard and a quantity of 
muslin to which the detached relics perfectly corre- 
sponded.” He was also exposed several other times but 
this did not prevent the Spiritualist paper, Light , from 
publishing in October, 1886, a mass of testimony given 
by more than a hundred observers, including persons of 
high culture and social standing, to show that the phe- 
nomena at his seances were not due to any deliberate ac- 
tion on the part of the medium but to “conclusively estab- 
lish the existence of some objective, intelligent force, 
capable of acting externally to the medium and in contra- 
vention of the recognized laws of matter.” 

The publication of such statements inspired Professor 
H. Carvill Lewis * to visit Eglinton for the purpose of 
investigation and arrangements were made for him to have 


# A full detailed account of the clever work done by Professor Lewis will be 
found in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, VoL IV, pp* 338- 



262 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


a first sitting in November just a month after the extrava- 
gant statement in Light. Aware of the frailty of memory 
Professor Lewis made notes during the seance and wrote 
out his deductions and conclusions immediately after. 
He discovered at an early stage that close scrutiny did not 
produce an atmosphere sufficiently wholesome for desired 
results. While his attention was concentrated on the 
medium the “objective intelligent force ” seemed totally 
inoperative, but whenever he turned his attention from 
the medium and apparently became absorbed in making 
notes the “intelligent force ” became active instanter. Un- 
der the observation of Professor Lewis, Eglinton failed 
utterly at times and at others simply declined to work 
when conditions were against him. Professor Lewis 
quotes him as claiming that he had converted Kellar to 
Spiritualism but refutes such a claim in the following 
words : 

“So far is this from being the case that Mr. Kellar, 
whom I know personally, is nightly offering in America 
twenty pounds to anyone who will produce Spiritualistic 
phenomena that he cannot imitate by conjuring.” 

The facts are that Kellar had a sitting with Eglinton in 
Calcutta to see if he could reproduce his effects by natural 
means. His mind was unbiased, and failing to detect 
Eglinton’s method he remarked, “If my senses are to be 
relied on the writing is in no way the result of trickery 
or sleight-of-hand.” But note the qualification in his 
remark: “If my senses are to be relied upon.” Evidently 
he had his misgivings then and he must have worked 
out the problem soon after for two years later, as Pro- 
fessor Lewis told, he was producing the effect in America, 
and not long after performed both the Slade and Eglinton 
slate tricks before the Seybert Commission in Philadel- 
phia to its complete amazement. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


263 


It was not strange that Kellar did not detect Eglinton’s 
method instantly nor is it strange that he acknowledged 
that he was baffled. No magician is immune from being 
deceived and it is no way beneath a magician’s dignity 
or demeaning to professional reputation to openly admit 
that he cannot always account for what he thinks he sees. 

Ernst Basch, of the famous Basch family, who made 
the major apparatus for the magicians of the world, told 
me that he made hundreds of wireless tables before wire- 
less was so well known under the name of “The Be- 
witched Table.” He was a great illusion inventor and 
builder with a wonderful knowledge but in all his experi- 
ence and contact with mediums he had never seen any- 
thing which would make him believe in Spiritualism. 
Neither has Francis J. Martinka, who traveled around the 
world with Haselmeyer, the magician, and who has sold 
magical apparatus in New York City for over forty years. 
1 have the following letter from him in regard to Spirit- 
communication. 

“146 East 54th Street, 
New York City, 

March 23rd, 1921. 

“Dear Mr. Houdini: 

“In answer to your question if I believe in Spiritualism, 
or the possibility of the return to this earth after death, 
how can I believe in such a thing as Spiritualism, when 
for more than two score years as the prominent magical 
dealer and manufacturer of mysterious effects I have 
supplied almost every known and thousands of unknown 
tricks or apparatus to the great majority of magicians, 
and indirectly to well-known mediums (one instance you 
may remember owing to the hullabaloo it raised at the 
time, when I sold luminous paint to Heyward Carrington, 
at the exact time when he was manager of the celebrated 



264 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


medium, E. Palladino, who had baffled the scientists of the 
world), also to all the managers of magician supply houses 
in existence. 

“No, I must say positively I do not believe in Spiritual- 
ism and it has always amused me to see how easy it is to 
deceive the human beings who seek solace for their grief 
or those who delve into the mysteries of which they 
know nothing. 

“In the forty years experience I have never seen anything 
that could convince me that such a thing as Spiritualism 
existed. 

“And to show you that I wish my letter to he positively 
authentic, have two friends sign as witnesses. 

“Regards. 

“Sincerely yours, 

(Signed) “Francis J. Martinka. 

“Witnesses. 

(Signed) Jean A. Leroy, 

133 3rd Ave. 

(Signed) Billy O’Connor, 

Magicians’ Club, 

London.” 

Another who finds nothing but “gross fraud” in Spir- 
itualism after sixty years of study is A. M. Wilson, M. D., 
of Kansas City, Mo., Editor and Publisher of The Sphinx. 
He wrote me as follows: 

1007 Main St., 

Kansas City, Mo. 

My dear Houdini: — 

For almost sixty-one years I have been witnessing and 
investigating Spiritualism and Spiritism as propagated by 
mediums through their so-called communications with the 
dead. Up to this time I have not met a medium, celebrated 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


265 


or obscure, that was not a gross fraud, nor seen a manifes- 
tation that was not trickery and that could not be duplicated 
by any expert magician and that without the conditions and 
restrictions demanded by the mediums or explained by 
perfectly natural mental or physical methods. 

Sure there are certain mental and psychic phenomena 
peculiar to a few persons who use their special gift to delude 
believers (as well as other credulous persons) with the 
belief that their work is supernatural, but even these phe- 
nomena can be analyzed and explained by any competent 
psychologist. 

The thing that first aroused my suspicion and disbelief 
and started me to thinking and investigating, was, why 
could not the dear departed communicate direct with their 
relatives and friends? why talk, or rap, or write or ma- 
terialize through a medium, the majority of whom are igno- 
rant men and women, though shrewd and cunning; and if 
through a medium why should the medium need a control, 
especially of an old Indian chief or prattling Indian maiden ? 
Why a control at all ? 

True there are a few well educated, intelligent and re- 
fined mediums in the business and which advantage makes 
them the more dangerous but none the less fraudulent 
than their more ignorant confreres. 

I repeat, that from my first seance in Aurora, Ind., Feb- 
ruary, 1863, until this date of 1923 I have never met a 
medium that was not a fraud or seen a manifestation of any 
kind or character that was not fraudulent. In other words 
was a more or less crude or skillful magical performance 
by a clever trickster or tricksteress. 

(Signed) A. M. Wilson, M. D., 
Editor The Sphinx . 



CHAPTER XVI 


CONCLUSION 

It has been my desire in this hook to convey to the 
reader my views regarding Spiritualism which are the re- 
sult of study and investigation, the startling feature of 
which has been the utter inability of the average human 
being to describe accurately anything he or she has wit- 
nessed. Many sitters, devoid of the sense of acute obser- 
vation, prefer to garnish and embellish their stories with 
the fruits of their fertile imaginations, adding a choice bit 
every time the incident is reported, and eventually, by a 
trick of the brain, really believing what they say. It is 
evident, therefore, that by clever misguidance and apt 
misdirection of attention, a medium can accomplish seem- 
ing wonders. The sitter becomes positively self-deluded 
and actually thinks he has seen weird phantoms or has 
heard the voice of a beloved one. 

To my knowledge I have never been baffled in the least 
by what I have seen at seances. Everything I have seen 
has been merely a form of mystification. The secret of 
all such performances is to catch the mind off guard and 
the moment after it has been surprised to follow up with 
something else that carries the intelligence along with the 
performer, even against the spectator’s will. When it 
is possible to do this with a highly developed mind like 
Mr. Kellar’s, one trained in magic mystery, and when 
scientific men of the intelligence of Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir 
Arthur Conan Doyle, the late William Crookes and Wil- 

266 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


267 


liam T. Stead, can be made to believe by such means how 
much easier it must be in the case of ordinary human 
beings. 

I cannot accept nor even comprehend the intelligence 
which justifies the conclusion, so often put in print as 
the opinion of brainy men supporting Spiritualism, that 
admits the possibility of a result being accomplished by 
natural means but nevertheless assert their sincere belief 
that the identical performance by a professional medium 
is solely of supernatural origin and guidance, nor can I 
understand the reasoning that, acknowledging the dis- 
reputable character of certain practitioners or mediums, 
deliberately defends the culprits in the performance of 
what has been proven a crime. Is it true logic, logic that 
would stand either in court or club room, to say that a 
medium caught cheating ninety-nine times out of a 
hundred was honest the hundredth time because not 
caught? Would the reader trust a servant who stole 
ninety-nine articles and then professed innocence when 
the hundredth article was missing? 

Sir Conan Doyle asks in all innocence, “Is it really scien- 
tific to deny and at the same time refuse to investigate?” 
My answer is most emphatically “no.” Nevertheless, they 
absolutely oppose all honest efforts at investigation, and 
justify the mediums in refusing to work when the condi- 
tions are not just as they want them. When one is in- 
vited to a dark seance for the purpose of investigation 
and finds the conditions so fixed as to bar him from en- 
quiring too closely and compel him to be content with 
merely looking on he stands a poor chance of getting at 
the facts, and should he dare to disregard the “rules of 
the circle” and the seance results in a blank, the investi- 
gator is charged with having brought an atmosphere of 
incredulity to bear which prevents manifestation. 



268 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


I do not affirm that the claims of Spiritualism are dis- 
proved by such failures hut I do say that if under such 
circumstances one dared to investigate properly and sanely, 
and to cross-examine, as he most certainly would do in 
any other form of investigation, scientific, or in the other 
walks of life. Spiritualism would not he so generously 
accepted. In justification the psychic says that darkness 
or excessively dim light is perfectly legitimate and that 
tangible investigation might result in injury or even death 
to the medium. The folly of any such fear has been 
proven time and again by the unexpected play of a flash 
light. Even the ardent supporters who lay emphasis on 
such an absurdity have, according to their own confession, 
made, or had made, flashlight photographs and there has 
never been a single case of harm or disaster reported. 
This necessity for darkness seems but the grossest inven- 
tion of the medium to divert, even to the point of intimi- 
dation, the attention of the sitters. Such a necessity can- 
not be accorded a logical reason for existing under test 
conditions to demonstrate a scientific subject. It can be 
supported only as a visionary, speculative superstition ; an 
instrument to foster hallucinatory illusion and as an admir- 
able subterfuge to cover fraud. 

Sir Arthur says: 

“If you want to send a telegram you must go to a tele- 
graph office. If you want to telephone you must first pick 
up the receiver and give your message to either an opera- 
tor or a waiting automaton.” 

Very well, I have gone to the operator between the 
Beyond and this earthly sphere, I have gone to the tele- 
graph office that receives the message in code, to the so- 
called medium. What would be more wonderful to me 
than to be able to converse with my beloved mother? 
Surely there is no love in this world like a mother’s love. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


269 


no closeness of spirit, no other heart throbs that beat alike; 
but I have not heard from my blessed Mother, except 
through the dictates of the inmost recesses of my heart, 
the thoughts which fill my brain and the memory of her 
teachings. 

Would not my private secretary, John William Sargent, 
come back to me and tell me the secrets of the beyond if 
it were possible? Did he not, just before he died, tell me 
that he would come to me if there was any way of doing 
it? More than being a private secretary, he was my 
friend, — true, loyal, sacrificing, — knew me for thirty 
years. He has not come back to me and he would if it were 
possible. 

I had compacts with a round dozen. Each one prom- 
ised me faithfully to come back if it were possible. I 
have even gone so far as to create secret codes and hand- 
grips. Sargent had a certain word he was to repeat to 
me; William Berol, the eminent mental expert, gave me 
the secret handshake a few hours before he died and did 
not regain consciousness after silently telling me that he 
remembered our compact; Atlanta Hall, niece of President 
Pierce, a woman ninety years of age, who had had seances 
with the greatest mediums that visited Boston, called for 
me just before her death, clasped my hand and gave me 
our agreed-upon grip which she was to give me through 
a medium. They have never come back to me! Does 
that prove anything? I have attended a number of 
seances since their death, the mediums have called for 
them, and when their spirit forms were supposed to appear 
not one of them could give me the proper signal. Would 
I have received it? I’ll wager I would have. There was 
love of some kind between each of these friends who are 
gone and myself. It is needless to point out the love of 
a mother and son; the love of a real friend; the love of a 



270 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


a woman of ninety toward a man who held her dear; the 
love of a philosopher toward a man who respected his 
life study, — they were all loves, each strong, each binding. 
If these persons, with all the love they bore in their heart 
for me and all the love I have in my heart for them, 
did not return, what about those who did not hold me 
close, who had no interest in me? Why should they come 
back and mine not? 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has repeatedly told the Spir- 
itualists that I will eventually see the light and embrace 
Spiritualism. If the memory of a loved one, gone to the 
protection of the hands of the Great Mystifier means 
Spiritualism, then truly I do believe in it. But if Spirit- 
ualism is to be founded on the tricks of exposed mediums, 
feats of magic, resort to trickery, then I say unflinchingly 
I do not believe, and more, I will not believe. I have 
said many times that I am willing to believe, want to 
believe, will believe, if the Spiritualists can show any sub- 
stantiated proof, but until they do I shall have to live on, 
believing from all the evidence shown me and from what I 
have experienced that Spiritualism has not been proven 
satisfactorily to the world at large and that none of the 
evidence offered has been able to stand up under the 
fierce rays of investigation. 

It is not for us to prove that the mediums are dishonest, 
it is for them to prove that they are honest. They have 
made a statement, the most serious statement in recent 
times, for it affects the welfare, the mental attitude and 
means a complete revolution of age-old beliefs and cus- 
toms of the world. If there is anything to Spiritualism 
then the world should know it. If there is nothing to it, 
if it is, as it appears, built on a flimsy framework of mis- 
direction, then too the universe must be told. There is 
too much at stake for a flighty passing, for unsubstan- 
tiated truths. 



APPENDIX 


A 

Statement of Margaret Fox 

“Do you know that there is something behind the shadowy 
mask of Spiritualism that the public can hardly guess at? I 
am stating now what I know, not because I actually participated 
in it, for I would never be a party to such promiscuous nastiness, 
but because I had plenty of opportunity, as you may imagine, of 
verifying it. Under the name of this dreadful, this horrible, 
hypocrisy — Spiritualism — everything that is improper, bad and 
immoral is practiced. They go even so far as to have what they 
call ‘Spiritual children.’ They pretend to something like the 
immaculate conception! Could anything be more blasphemous, 
more disgusting, more thinly deceptive than that? In London I 
went in disguise to a quiet seance at the house of a wealthy man, 
and I saw a so-called materialization. The effect was produced 
with the aid of luminous paper, the luster of which was reflected 
upon the operator. The figure thus displayed was that of a 
woman, virtually nude, being enveloped in transparent gauze, the 
face alone being concealed. This was one of those seances to 
which the privileged non-believing friends of believing Spirit- 
ualists could have access. But there are other seances where 
none but the most tried and trusted are admitted, and where there 
are shameless goings on that vie with the secret Saturnalia of the 
Romans. I could not describe these things to you, because I 
would not.” 

From “The Death Blow to Spiritualism,” by Ruben Briggs 
Davenport. Page 50. 

B 

Irving 9 $ Speech 

Speech of Henry Irving preceding his imitation of the Daven- 
ports February 25, 1865, at the Manchester Athenaeum, Man- 
chester, England. 


271 



272 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


“Ladies and gentlemen: — In introducing to your notice the 
remarkable phenomena which have attended the gentlemen, who 
are not brothers, who are about to appear before you, I do not 
deem it necessary to offer my observations upon their extraordi- 
nary manifestations. I shall therefore at once commence a long 
rigmarole for the purpose of distracting your attention, and fill- 
ing your intelligent heads with perplexity. I need not tell this 
enlightened audience that the manifestations they are about to 
witness are produced by occult power, the meaning of which I 
don’t clearly understand; but, we simply bring before your 
notice facts, and from these you must form your own conclusions. 
Concerning the early life of these gentlemen, columns of the most 
uninteresting description could be written; I will mention one 
or two interesting facts connected with these remarkable men, and 
for the truth of which I personally vouch. In early life, one of 
them to the perfect unconcern of everybody else, was constantly 
and most unconsciously floating about his peaceful dwelling in 
the arms of his amiable nurse, while, on other occasions, he was 
frequently tied with invisible hands to his mother’s apron strings. 
Peculiarities of a like nature were exhibited by his companion, 
whose acquaintance with various Spirits commenced many years* 
ago, and has increased to the present moment with pleasure to 
himself and profit to others. These gentlemen have not been cele- 
brated throughout the vast continent of America, they have not 
astonished the civilized world, but they have travelled in various 
parts of this glorious land — the land of Bacon — and are about 
to appear in a phase in your glorious city of Manchester. Many 
really sensible and intelligent individuals seem to think that the 
requirement of darkness seems to infer trickery. So it does. But 
I will strive to convince you that it does not. Is not a dark 
chamber essential to the process of photography? And what 
would we reply to him who would say T believe photography is 
a humbug, do it all in the light and we will believe otherwise’? 
It is true that we know why darkness is essential to the production 
of a sun picture; and if scientific men will subject these phe- 
nomena to analysis, they will find why darkness is essential to 
our manifestations. But we don’t want them to find out, we want 
them to avoid a common-sense view of the mystery. We want 
them to be blinded by our puzzle, and to believe with implicit 
faith in the greatest humbug in the nineteenth century.” 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


273 


C 

Lord A dare’s Story. 

That is the way Spiritualistic chroniclers tell this story, but 
Lord Dunraven, in a letter to the Editor of The Weekly Dispatch, 
London, Eng., March 21, 1920, gives quite a different version 
of the occurrence, and because of its intrinsic worth as refutation 
of the loud claim made by Spiritualists I am reproducing the 
entire article including head lines: 

“MEDIUM’S ENTRY BY WINDOW 

“WHAT I SAW AT ASHLEY HOUSE 
“By Lord Dunraven. 

“My attention has been drawn to accounts of a debate on 
‘Spiritualism’ on March 11 between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
and Mr. Joseph McCabe, in which the latter is reported to have 
described the alleged wafting of Mr. D. D. Home from window 
to window as one of the greatest pieces of trickery to be found in 
the whole Spiritualistic movement. 

“Assuming the substantial accuracy of the report, I, as the 
sole survivor of those present on the occasion, think it my duty, 
in justice to the dead, to mention the facts as recorded by me 
at the time. 

“They are extracted from a long letter descriptive of the 
evening to my father, who was much interested in the subject. 
Whether my letter was submitted to the others present I cannot 
now say for certain. I have no doubt that it was, for my custom 
was always to ask others present to test the accuracy of any 
record that I kept. 

“The date was December 16, 1868. Those present were my- 
self (then Lord Adare), the late Lord Crawford, (then Master of 
Lindsay), a cousin of mine, Mr. Wynne (Charlie) and Mr. D. 
D. Home. 

“ON THE THIRD FLOOR 

“The scene was Ashley House (in Ashley-place) . Speaking 
from memory, it consisted of two rooms facing the front — that 



274 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


is, looking on Ashley-place — a passage at the back running the 
length of the two rooms, a door in each room connecting it with 
the passage. The locality is thus described in the letter to my 
father: 

“ ‘Outside each window is a small balcony or ledge, 19 in. 
deep, bounded by stone balustrade, 18 in. high. The balustrades 
of the two windows are 7 ft. 4 in. apart, measuring from the near- 
est points. A string-course, 4 in. wide, runs between the windows 
at the level of the bottom of the balustrade, and another, 3 in. 
wide, at the level of the top. Between the window at which 
Home went out and that at which he came in the wall recedes 6 
in. The rooms are on the third floor.’ 

“The following account of the incident is extracted from the 
letter to my father: 

“He (Home) then said to us, ‘Do not be afraid, and on no 
account leave your places;’ and he went out into the passage. 

“FROM ROOM TO ROOM 

“Lindsay suddenly said, ‘Oh, good heavens! I know what he 
is going to do; it is too fearful.’ Adare: ‘What is it?’ Lind- 
say: ‘I cannot tell you; it is too horrible! Adah says that I 

must tell you; he is going out of the window in the other room, 
and coming in at this window.’ 

“We heard Home go into the next room, heard the window 
thrown up, and presently Home appeared standing upright out- 
side our window. He opened the window and walked in quite 
cooly. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘you were good this time,’ referring to our 
having sat still and not wished to prevent him. He sat down and 
laughed. 

“Charlie: ‘What are you laughing at?’ Home: ‘We are 

thinking that if a policeman had been passing and had looked up 
and seen a man turning round and round along the wall in the 
air he would have been much astonished. Adare, shut the 
window in the next room.’ 

“I got up, shut the window, and in coming back remarked that 
the window was not raised a foot, and that I could not think how 
he had managed to squeeze through. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


275 


“OUT, HEAD FIRST 

“He arose and said ‘Come and see.’ I went with him; he told 
me to open the window as it was before, I did so ; he told me to 
stand a little distance off; he then went through the open space, 
head first, quite rapidly, his body being nearly horizontal and 
apparently rigid. He came in again, feet foremost, and we 
returned to the other room. 

“It was so dark I could not see clearly how he was supported 
outside. He did not appear to grasp, or rest upon, the 
balustrade, but rather to be swung out and in.” 

“Such are the facts as narrated at the time. I make no com- 
ment except this. Rigorously speaking, it is incorrect to say, as 
I think has been said, that we saw Mr. Home wafted from one 
window to the other. 

“As to whether he was or was not, I am concerned only to 
state the facts as observed at the time, not to make deductions 
from them.” 

In view of this publication, it is quite natural to infer that 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was cognizant of it at the time of its 
appearance, because of his controversy with Mr. Joseph McCabe, 
on that subject; therefore, it is difficult to reconcile that thought 
with the fact of Sir Arthur’s unmitigated praise and endorsement 
of a man such as all adduced evidence has branded a charlatan. 

D 

Luther R . Marsh and the Huylers 

In 1903, Luther R. Marsh again fell into the hands of char- 
latans as Mr. Isaac K. Funk tells in his book “The Widow’s 
Mite and Other Psychic Phenomena.” A court set aside the 
assignment of several insurance policies which Marsh had made 
to a medium known as Mrs. Huyler. Mr. Funk tells the story 
as follows: 

“On the day Mr. Marsh transferred the policies he (Huyler) 
and his wife had gone to Mr. Marsh’s room, where Mrs. 
Huyler claimed to hold communication with the Spirits and 
told Mr. Marsh there was a terrible uproar in Spiritland because 
he declined to transfer the policies. She told him that his 



276 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


Spiritualistic wife, Adelaide Neilson, was tearing her hair and 
weeping, and heaping reproaches upon him. His wife, Mrs. 
Marsh, was acting in the same fashion, and his father-in-law, 
‘Sunset,’ Alvin Stewart, was exceedingly wroth. 

“Mr. Marsh was alarmed at this manifestation of Spiritualistic 
displeasure, and agreed to transfer the policies. At the last 
moment he hesitated and claimed that because his will was made 
out he thought it better to postpone the matter a little while; but 
Mrs. Huyler insisted that he go across the way to a lawyer’s 
office, and he did so. 

“While he was gone Mrs. Huyler admitted that the trance 
was a ‘fake’ and said that she wanted to get all she could from 
the ‘old fool’ before he died. 

“Mr. Marsh returned to the room presently and assured her 
that the transfer had been made as she desired. As soon as 
this evidence had been given by Huyler, Justice Marean ended 
the proceedings. 

“ ‘This man is a thief and a fraud,’ he said turning to Huyler, 
‘and he acted the part of a thief when he and his wife conspired 
to secure those policies by the means he has just related.’ ” 

E 

Police Record of Ann O’ Delia Diss Debar . 

Editha Loleta, Jackson, alias The Swami — 5 — 3^/2 — sallow. 

Hair brown, turning gray. Blue eyes. Occupation, 
authoress. 

Sentence: 

6 jnos.. New York. 19.6.88. Swindling. Ann O’Delai 
Diss Debar. 

2 years, Geneva. 25.3.93. Larceny. Vera P. Ava. 

Expelled from New Orleans. 7.5.99. Swindling, Susp. Per- 
son. Edith Jackson. 

30 days, New Orleans. 16.5.99. Susp. Person. Edith 
Jackson. 

7 years penal servitude, Central Criminal Court, London. 
16.12.01. Aiding and abetting the commission of rape. 
Editha Loleta Jackson. 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


277 


F 

Judge Edmonds 

Judge Edmonds was bom in Hudson, N. Y., in 1799, re- 
ceived a college education and studied law. In 1819 he entered 
the law office of President Van Buren. In 1828 he was ap- 
pointed Recorder of Hudson and in 1831 was elected to the 
State Senate by an unprecedented majority. In 1843 he was 
appointed Inspector of the State Prison at Sing Sing holding 
the position until 1845 when he resigned to become a Circuit 
Judge of the First Judicial District. Later he was elected Judge 
of the State Supreme Court and finally in 1851 became a 
member of the Court of Appeals. These various offices gave 
him experience in the widest range of judicial duties; he had a 
greatly developed mentality and was known as the shrewdest 
judge of his time. 

In 1850 he lost his wife with whom he had lived for over 
thirty years. He was very much affected by her death and his 
mind became occupied with inquiries concerning the nature and 
conditions of death, frequently spending the greater part of 
the night reading and reflecting on the subject. One midnight 
he seemed to hear the voice of his wife speaking a sentence to 
him. It was his doom. He started as though shot and from 
that time on devoted all his time, money and energy to Spirit- 
ualism. His faith did not waver to the end. On his death bed 
he claimed to be surrounded by Spirit forms and declared that 
by reason of entering their sphere in an advanced state of 
spiritual development he would be able to send back messages 
and proofs of Spiritualism at once. He died April 5th, 1874 
(the very date of my birth). I doubt if the history of Spir- 
itualism can point out a man of greater brilliancy who ruined 
his life following up this “will-o-tke-wisp” to relieve his grief. 

G 

Doyle and the “ Denver Express.” 

This reminds me of a conversation which we had in Denver in 
May, 1923, when he admitted to me that he was frequently mis- 
quoted and made to say things which he never even thought of. 



278 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


By some prank of fate, Sir Arthur was booked to lecture in 
Denver at the same time I was performing there. 

Lady Doyle, Sir Arthur, Mrs. Houdini and myself went out 
motoring in the morning and when we returned to the hotel Sir 
Arthur excused himself. About two hours later on my way to the 
Orpheum Theatre, Sir Arthur came dashing through the lobby 
of the hotel excitedly looking around for someone. I walked up 
to him saying, “Anything I can do for you?” He put his arm 
around me and said, “Houdini, there is a challenge of $5,000 
in this paper which I am purported to have issued. I want you 
to know that I would never dream of doing such a thing, to you 
above everyone else.” 

I replied, “Sir Arthur, this is just another case, where you 
have been misquoted. No doubt you are thinking that I am 
going to believe it, for I know that if conditions were reversed 
you would have believed it; therefore, you see it is best to investi- 
gate before giving credence to anything as being a fact. I am 
not even upset about it — things happen that way. Will you 
please remember this incident the next time you read an interview 
supposedly issued by me?” Sir Arthur left for Salt Lake City 
the next morning. 

I walked into the Editorial Department of the Denver Express , 
saw Mr. Sydney B. Whipple, the Managing Editor, and told him 
that I had met Sir Arthur the night before and that he was very 
indignant at the challenge which the paper reported he issued. 
I said, “You see, Mr. Whipple, Sir Arthur, Lady Doyle, Mrs. 
Houdini and myself were out motoring all yesterday afternoon, 
and when Sir Arthur returned he saw the “scare head-line” to the 
effect that he had challenged me for $5,000! Whipple asked, 
“You mean to say that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle denies having 
challenged you?” I replied, “Most emphatically,— he said that 
it was not true and he never made such a statement and added 
he had written to tbe Editor to let him know what he thought of 
him for misrepresenting and misquoting what he said.” Mr. 
Whipple asked me to wait a moment until he got to the bottom 
of the matter. 

Whipple called over Mr. Sam Jackson and said, “Regarding 
this challenge of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, did he or did he not 
challenge Houdini during your interview?” Jackson answered, 
“Why he positively did. You do not think, Mr. Whipple, that I 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


279 


would come in with a story which is not true? Sir Arthur dis- 
tinctly made his statement in terms positive, that he was willing 
to challenge Houdini for $5,000. Miss Jeanette Thornton was 
there at the time interviewing Lady Doyle, and she overheard the 
conversation. Will you please call her and have her confirm my 
statement.” 

Miss Thornton came over and upon being questioned, answered, 
“Most assuredly I heard Sir Arthur’s challenge yesterday. I 
thought it was a very interesting incident so I paid particular 
attention. I am surprised that Sir Arthur now denies having 
made it.” 

Whipple turned to me saying, “There you are — any further 
proof you want, is there anything we can do for you to contradict 
this? Do you wish us to make a statement?” To which I re- 
plied, “No, just let it go, we will let it pass.” 

The following letters which I received from Mr. Whipple are 
self-explanatory: 


“THE 'DENVER EXPRESS’ 

“THE TRUTH— QUICK. 

“May 11, >1923. 

“Dear Mr. Houdini: — 

“I am enclosing a letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle com- 
plaining that the report of his challenge regarding mediumistic 
appearances was garbled in this paper. 

“I must also say that our reporter, who talked with Doyle 
insists that his report of the conversation was absolutely correct, 
and that Doyle said what we printed. 

“Cordially yours, 

(Signed) “Sydney B. Whipple. 


“THE BROWN PALACE HOTEL 
Denver, Colo. 

“May 9, 1923. 

“Sir:— 

“The report in the Denver Express that I offered to bring back 
the spirit of my mother for five thousand dollars, in order to 



280 


A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


confute Mr. Houdini, is a monstrous fabrication, and I cannot 
imagine how you dare to print such a thing, which is on the face 
of it so blasphemous and absurd. 

“What actually occurred was that your reporter said that my 
friend Mr. Houdini had wagered $5,000 that he could do any- 
thing any medium could do, to which I answered “To do that he 
would have to show me my mother.” This is surely very differ- 
ent. 

“Yours faithfully, 

(Signed) “A. Conan Doyle.” 

H 

Exposure of Mrs. Stewart 

It is significant to note that on December 28, 1923, at St. 
Louis, Mo., I was fortunate in forming acquaintance with Judge 
Daniel G. Taylor, who presided over Division No. 2 of the 
Circuit Court, to which division Josie K. Folsom-Stewart, as 
President, Charles W. Stewart, Secretary, and Phoebe S. Wolf, 
as Treasurer, made application for incorporation of the “Society 
of Scientific and Religious Truthseekers,” who claimed that they 
had associated themselves by articles of agreement in writing, as 
a “Society for religious and mutual improvement purposes.” 
“The articles of agreement and association are signed by some 
forty persons.” As was customary in such cases, Judge Taylor 
“appointed J. Lionberger Davis, then a practicing attorney, now 
President of Security National Bank, as amicus curiae to examine 
into the matter and report whether or not the charter should be 
granted.” The outcome of which was evidence of guilt of fraudu- 
lent manifestations of mediumship. In the course of investiga- 
tion, Miss Martha Grossman, a member of Mrs. Folsom’s 
“Development Class,” testified that Mr. Stewart and Mrs. Folsom 
were conducting meetings which she had attended for six months, 
at which time she saw writing on cards which Mrs. Folsom said 
was done by Spirits. 

Miss Grossman testified that what Mrs. Folsom claimed to be 
spirit photographs were mere transfers from prints in the Post- 
Dispatch, advertising “Syrup of Figs” and “Lydia Pinkham’s” 



A MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS 


281 


concoction. It also developed that Miss Alice C. Preston con- 
fessed to having been a confederate and in that capacity “assisted 
Mrs. Folsom in producing, physically, and by natural means, the 
supposed supernatural demonstrations.” A reference to this testi- 
mony is contained in the memorandum document on the evidence 
which is signed by the attorney for the petitioners and which is 
in the court files. 

As a conclusion, Judge Taylor denied the petition for incorpo- 
ration, which in any event could have been granted for the pur- 
pose of holding real estate only, and not for promulgating teach- 
ings of a cult. 

The Judge acknowledged that he himself was convinced that 
Mrs. Folsom was a fraud; and this is the same Mrs . Stewart , 
who appeared before the Scientific American Committee of In- 
vestigation in 1923, wherein she was detected in her card-trick. 

Mrs. Folsom was forced to acknowledge to the court in 1905 
that she was the author of a small book under title of “Non- 
Godism,” a copy of which together with documentary evidence 
bearing on the court proceedings referred to above are now in 
my possession. 



INDEX 



INDEX 


Academy of Music, New York, 11. 
“Ackroyd, Jack,” 124. 

Adams, John, 229. 

Adare, Lord, 47, 273, 274, 480. 

Albert, Prince, 240. 

Albus, Remigius, 94. 

“Alexander, Herr,” 249. 

Alexis, 253. 

Amazing Seance and an Exposure , 
233. 

Ambler, R. P., 229. 

American Expeditionary Force, 
182. 

American Magicians, Society of, 
259, 260. 

American , New York, 148, 237. 
American Red Cross, 188. 

American Society for Psychical 
Research, 58. 

Andrews, 231. 

“Apport Medium,” 238. 

Arabian Nights , The, 35. 

Ava, Vera, 78. 

Bacon, 229. 

Baggally, Worthy W., 52, 63. 

Baggley, 169. 

Bailey, Charles, 238. 

Baldwin, S. S., 107. 

Bamberg, David, 259. 

Bamberg, Theodore, 259. 

Barlow, Mr., 126. 

Barnum, Phineas Taylor, 118. 

Barrett, Oliver R., 145. 

Barton, Clara, 188. 

Basch, Ernst, 263. 

285 


Beadnell, Capt. C. Marsh, 176. 
Behind the Scenes with Mediums , 
79. 

Belachini, 33, 248, 249. 

“Bengal Tiger,” 19. 

“Benicia Boy,” 19. 

Bennett, G. W., 200. 

Benoval, 254. 

Berol, William, 269. 

Berry, Catherine, 232. 

Bewitched Table, The, 263. 

“Bible Sellers,” 222. 

Bible, Truth a Companion to, 188. 
Bird, J. Malcolm, 159, 160. 
Bishop, Washington Irving, 43. 
Bisson, Juliette, 166, 167, 168, 
170, 171, 172, 173. 

Blavaisky, Mme., 49. 

“Blind Tom,” 256. 

Bloomfield, Marie, 181. 

Bonaparte, Napoleon, 12. See 
also Napoleon. 

Borderland, 64. 

Boston Athletic Association, 187. 
Bottom Facts , 87. 

Bottom Writing, 79. 

Boucicault, Dion, 34, 35. 

Brady, William A., 60. 

Brewster, Sir David, 42. 

British College of Psychic Science, 
127, 211. 

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 2. 
Browning, R. Barrett, 41, 42. 
Bryant, William Cullen, 42. 
Buguet, 120, 121. 

Burns, J., 198, 201. 



286 


INDEX 


Burns, Mrs., 231. 

Burr, Mr., 181. 

Burton, Richard Francis, 35. 

Bury, Lord, 34. 

Bush, Edward, 124. 

Buxton, Mrs., 123, 124, 131, 132, 
133. 

“Cabinet and rope mystery, Dav- 
enport,” 21. 

Cagliostro, 66, 96. 

Carriere, Eva, 166. 

Carrington, Hereward, 52, 58, 60, 
61, 62, 63, 159, 160, 263. 

Carte, d-Oyley, 240. 

Carter, Capt. R. K., 89, 90. 

Case for Spirit Photography , The, 
197. 

Catholic Church, 5, 10. 

Challis, Professor, 51. 

Chemical News, 199. 

Chiaia, Professor, 51. 

Cicero, 72. 

Circle of Conjurors in London, 
164. 

“Circle, rules of,” 267. 

Coleman, Arthur, 241. 

Clark, Earl L., 181. 

Clarke, Bishop, 42. 

Cleveland, President, 12. 

Cockrell, Senator, 4, 71. 

Colby, Luther, 76. 

Colley, Archdeacon, 261. 

Collins, James, 133, 134. 
Columbine, St. Catherine of, 234. 
“Common Clay,” 256. 
Communication , 233, 234. 
Comstock, Ph.D., Daniel Fisk, 
159. 

Conference to the Psychological 
Studies at Paris, 34. 
“Confession,” Margaret Kane’s, 
15. 


Conjurers, Circle of, 164. 

Cook, Florence, 184, 203, 204, 
241. 

Cook, Professor Harry, 183, 205. 
Cormican, S.J., Rev. P. J., 164. 
Corner, Mrs., 204. 

Cornyn, John, 182. 

County Medical Society, 182. 
Crawford, Lord, 273. 

Crawford, Dr. W. J., 173, 174, 
175, 215. 

Crewe, 123, 129. 

Crewe Circle, 197. 

Croisdale, Miss, 77. 

Cromwell, Oliver, 232. 

Crookes, Sir William, 46, 47, 183, 
199, 200, 202, 203, 205, 266. 
Cropsey, James, 224. 

Cross, Judge, 76. 

Cumberland, Stuart, 26, 144, 147, 
149. 

Curry, Dr., 189. 

Daily Express, London, 147. 

Daily Sketch, 143. 

Daily Telegraph, London, 178. 
Daily Tribune , Chicago, 78. 
d’Albe, E. E. Fournier, 166, 174, 
175, 216. 

Dammann, John, 177. 

“Dark seances,” 25. 

Darling, Justice, 144. 

Davenport Brothers, The, 17-37, 
148, 161, 249, 257. 

Davenport, Ira Erastus, 17-37, 
148, 162, 235, 258. 

Davenport, Mrs., second, 18. 
Davenport, Ruben Briggs, 14, 271. 
Davenport, William Henry Harri- 
son, 17-37. 

Davis, Andrew Jackson, 117. 
Davis, W. S., 11, 16, 54, 56, 57, 
59, 60. 



INDEX 


287 


De Angelus, Jefferson, 224. 

Dean, Hope, 141. 

Deland, Margaret, 206. 

Demis, Dr., 172. 

Dessenon, M., 121. 

Devant, 213. 

De Vega, 129. 

“Dexterity, physical,” 20. 

Dialectical Society, 160, 200, 201, 
202 . 

Dickens, Charles, 19, 229. 

Didier, Alexis, 250, 251, 254, 255. 

Dimension, Fourth, 238. 

Dingwall, Eric, 63, 168, 169, 170, 
171. 

Diss Debar, Ann O’Delia, 39, 66, 
69-78, 276. 

Diss Debar, General, 69, 71. 

Donkin, Sir Horatio, 80, 81, 82. 

Donohue, Ex-Judge, 71. 

Donovan, D. C., 32. 

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, 7, 40, 
46, 48, 59, 83, 117, 124, 126, 
133, 138-165, 202, 205, 207, 
209, 210, 233, 236, 237, 238, 
258, 266, 267, 268, 270, 273, 
275, 277-280. 

Doyle, Charles A., 139. 

“Doyle, Dicky,” 139. 

Doyle, John, 139. 

Doyle, Kingsley, 237, 238. 

Doyle, Lady, 139, 147, 150, 152, 
157, 158, 160, 161, 233, 278, 
279. 

Dumas, Alexander, 19. 

Dunraven, Lord, 273. 

Ectoplasm, 166-179. 

Eddy Brothers, 233, 234. 

Eddy, Horatio, 233, 234. 

Eddy, Mary, 234. 

Eddy, Warren, 234. 

Eddy, Webster, 233, 234. 


Eddy, William, 233. 

Edmonds, Judge John W., 42, 118, 
242, 277. 

Edwin Brood, Mystery of, 229. 
Ellington, William, 241, 260-263. 
Encyclopedia, Larousse’s, 252. 
Ernest, B. M. L., 245. 

Eva, Mile., 167, 170, 171, 172, 
173, 174, 176, 178. 

Evening Mail, New York, 208. 
Evening News, London, 236. 
Evening Telegram , New York, 
164. 

Evening World , New York, 181. 
Evidences of Spiritualism, 32. 
Evils of society, 229. 
Expeditionary Force, American, 
182. 

Experiments in Psychical Science , 

173. 

Exposure, Amazing Seance and an, 
233. 

Express, Denver, 277, 278, 279. 


“Fair play, English,” 29. 

Fallacies of Spiritualism , The , 
188. 

Fay, Annie Eva, 204, 212, 215. 
Fay, William M., 18, 23, 27, 34. 
Fechner, 83. 

Feilding, Hon. Everard, 52, 53, 
63, 166, 169, 170, 171, 173. 
Feilding, Mrs., 166. 

Fellows, District Attorney, 71. 
Ferguson, J. B., 26, 28, 31, 148. 
First Society of Spiritualists, 16. 
Fish, Mrs., 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9. See 
also Underhill, Mrs. 

Fox, John D., 1. 

Fox, Kate, 1-16. 

Fox, Margaret, 1-16, 271. See also 
Kane, Margaret Fox. 



288 


INDEX 


“Fox Sisters, The,” 1-16, 38, 39, 
110, 141, 203. 

France, Emperor and Empress of, 
43. See also Napoleon. 
Franklin, Sir John, 4. 

Fraud, spiritualism a, 10; magi- 
cians as detectors of, 244. 
Fullerton, Geo. S., 83. 

Fun , London, 41. 

Funk, Dr., 11. 

Funk, Isaac K., 275. 

Furness, Horace Howard, 84, 195. 

Gardner, Dr., 117. 

Garfield, President, 187. 

General Assembly of Spiritualists, 
156. 

Gilchrist, J. B., 131. 

Glenconner, Lady, 124, 144. 
Goligher Circle, 173, 174, 175, 
176, 216. 

Goligher, Kathleen, 173, 175, 176, 
178. 

Gow, David, 177. 

Greeley, Horace, 3. 

Grossman, George, 144. 

“Guardian angei,” 237. 

Guiteau, Charles J., 187. 

Gullots, Vincenzo, 236. 

Guppy, Mrs., 230, 232, 240. 
Guzek, Jean, 178. 

Hackney Spiritualistic Society, 
125. 

Hall, Atlanta, 269. 

Hamilton, Duke of, 19, 35, 36. 
“Handcuff King,” 211. 

Handcuff trick, 258. 

Hare, Professor, 51, 239. 

Harris, Mrs., 232. 

Harrison, Will, 12, 120. 
Haselmeyer, 263. 

Hauffe, Madame, 234. 


Hayes, Father, 241. 

Hazard, Thomas R., 194. 

Heenan, John C., 19. 

Heinbeger, Alexander, 249. 
Henderson, 149. 

Heredia, Father de, 114. 
Hermann, Alexander, 71, 248. 
Herne, 81, 230, 231. 

Herald, New York, 180. 

Hertz, Carl, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77. 
Heuze, Paul, 172, 178. 

Hicks, Leonard, 145. 

Hilton, Judge, 71. 

Hirons, Mabelle, 188. 

Hodgson, Dr. Richard, 52. 
Hoffmann, 244, 252, 258. 

Home, Daniel Dunglas, 38-49, 59, 
67, 80, 202, 203, 242, 273, 274, 
275. 

Home's, D. D., Life and Work, 46. 
Hooker, Dr. Samuel C., 246. 

Hope, William, 123, 124, 129, 130, 
131, 132. 

Houdin, Madame Robert, 255, 278. 
Houdin, Robert, 33, 36, 249, 251- 
255, 257, 258. 

“Houdin, Unmasking of Robert,” 
252. 

Houdini, 20, 21, 74, 82, 94, 139, 

140, 143, 146, 149, 150, 151, 

155, 156, 158-160, 167, 168, 

174, 176, 211-214, 246, 263, 

279, 280. 

Howard, Joseph, 71. 

Howe, Mr., 76. 

Hubbell, Dr. J. B., 188. 

Hughes, John, 29. 

Hughes, Rupert, 58. 

“Human clamp,” 57. 

Human nature, 122. 

Huinbuggery, spiritualistic, 12. 
Humbugs of the world, 118. 

Hunt, 139. 



INDEX 


289 


Huxley, Professor, 198, 199. 
Huyler, Mrs., 276. 

Huylers, The, 275. 

Hyslop, 133. 

Inaudi, 257. 

Incidents of My Life , 41. 
Infelicity , 19. 

Influence of the Mind upon the 
Body , 208. 

Information, how mediums obtain, 
217. 

Initiation, 229. 

Intercourse, spirit, 211. 
International Psydhical Associa- 
tion, 145. 

Investigations — Wise and Other- 
wise, 191-216. 

Irving, Edward, 234. 

Irving, Sir Henry, 30, 271. 

Jackson, Laura, 77. 

Jacobs, E., 33, 34. 

Jacoby, 34. 

Jaeger, Oscar, 177. 

“Jar of Honey,” 139. 

Jastrow, Professor, 58. 

Johnson, Mrs., 238. 

Johnson, Sam, 87. 

Jourman, Maitre, 172. 

Judgment, Sanhedrim of, 164. 

Kane, Dr. Elisha Kent, 3, 9. 

Kane, Margaret Fox, 4, 5, 10, 11, 
12, 16. 

Karcher, Juliet, 160. 

Keating, Frederick, 160. 

Kellar, Dean, 21, 28, 136. 

Kellar, Harry, 84, 85, 86, 87, 195, 
223, 224, 225, 244, 247, 262, 
263, 266. 

Kellogg, James L., 54, 55, 56, 57, 
58. 

Key to Theosophy , 49. 


Kidder, 26. 

King, John, 232. 

King, Kate, 143, 184, 203, 235. 
“Kluge Hans,” 260. 

Kluski, P. Frank, 178. 

Knapp, Gardiner, 79. 

Kodarz, 238. 

Krhn, Dr. Monrad, 177. 

Krotel, Asst. District Attorney, 
142. 

“Lady Wildmere’s Fan,” 256. 
Landsfeldt, Countess, 68, 70. 
Lankester, Sir, 80, 81, 82. 
Laurillard, Edward, 144. 
Lawrence, “Dr.,” 71. 

Leadbeater, C. W., 238. 

Leegaard, Dr., 177. 

Lehrmann, Granville, 160. 

Leroy, Jean A., 264. 

Lescurboura, 160. 

Levitation, table, 54-57, 71. See 
also Table lifting. 

Lewes, George Henry, 198, 199. 
Lewis, Professor H. Carvill, 261, 
262. 

Leymaire, M., 120. 

Life, 229. 

Light, 203, 204, 261, 262. 

Lights and Shadows of Spiritual- 
ism, 41. 

Lincoln, Abraham, 12. 

Littlefield, Walter, 63. 

Liverpool riot, 28. 

Livingston, 55. 

Lodge, Raymond, 206. 

Lodge, Sir Oliver, 51, 145, 147, 
205, 206, 207, 208, 266. 

Loeb, Sophie Irene, 237. 

“Loftus Troupe,” 224. 

Lombroso, Professor, 51. 

London Dialectical Society, 198. 
London, Jack, 229, 237. 



290 


INDEX 


London Magazine , 238. 

London Psychical College, 166. 
Lord, Jennie, 234. 

Louis I of Bavaria, 67. 

Loyola, 234. 

Lunn, Sir Henry, 144. 

Lyon, Daniel Home, 45. 

Lyon, Jane, 44, 45, 46. 

Lytton, Sir E. Bulwer, 42. 

Magicians’ Club, 264. 

Magicians, Society of American, 

210, 259. 

Manning, Husband, 145. 

Marl, Mile., 172. 

Marsault, Maitre, 172. 

Marsh, Luther R., 275. 

Martinka, Francis J., 263, 264. 
“Masked Lady,” 144, 149. 
Maskelyne, John Nevil, 80, 81, 
204, 213, 244. 

Mass, Jim, 224, 225. 

Master Workers , 204. 

Marriage relations, 229. 

Marryat, Captain, 239. 

Marryat, Florence, 239. 

Marsh, Luther R., 70, 71, 72, 73, 
75, 76. 

Martin, Alexander, 133, 134, 

135. 

Martineau, Harriet, 2. 

McCabe, Joseph, 51, 203, 204, 
232, 273, 275. 

McClure’s Magazine , 61. 
McCormick, Cyrus, 145. 
McCormick, Muriel, 145. 
McDougall, Dr. William, 159. 
McKenzie, J. Hewat, 127, 166, 

211, 212, 214, 215. 

M , Mrs., 183. 

“Medium and Daybreak,” 79, 201, 

202, 230, 231, 232. 

Medium in the mask, the, 144. 


Mediums, how they obtain infor- 
mation, 217-228. 

Memoirs of a Magician , 252. 
Menken, Adah Isaacs, 19. 

Messant, Mrs., 69, 70. 

Miller, Professor Dickinson S., 
54, 55, 58. 

Mitchell, C. R., 125. 

“Mite, The Widow's ? 11, 275. 
Modern Spiritualism , 41, 79, 120. 
Monck, Dr., 232. 

Montez, Lola, 67, 76. 

Moreland, Beatrice, 256. 

Morning Post , London, 144, 149. 
Morritt, Charles, 259. 

Moses, Rev. Stainton, 120, 122. 
Mosley, Sidney A., 144, 233. 
Mumler, Wm. H., 117, 118, 119, 
120, 122, 136. 

Munchausen, Baron, 229. 
“Murphy’s button,” 144. 

Myers, F. W. H., 64. 

Mystery, Torture Cell, 167. 
Mystery of Edwin Brood , 229. 

Napoleon I, 242, 243. 

National Spiritualists Association, 
182. 

“Neck, the tie around the,” 22. 
Neilson, Adelaide, 276. 
Newcombe, Lawyer, 71. 
Newcomes , The , 139. 

Newer Spiritualism , 41. 

“New Revelation, The,” 164, 207. 
Newton, Mr., 16. 

New York Press Club Fund, 71. 
New York State Assembly of 
Spiritualists, 180. 

Neyland, Miss, 230. 

Nichols, Thomas L., 26. 

Nicol, Catherine, 142. 

Nielson, Ejner, 177, 178. 
Northwestern Orient, 229. 



INDEX 


291 


Occult Committee of the Magic 
Circle, 126. 

Ochorowiz, Professor, 166. 
O’Connor, Billy, 264. 

Olcott, Col. Henry S., 234, 235, 
236. 

Orion, Madame, 226. 

Other World , 236. 

Our American Adventures , 7, 141, 
163, 164. 

“Ouija board,” 189, 190. 

Owen, Robert, 42, 51, 160. 
Oxenford, John, 19. 

Paine, Thomas, 229. 

Palladino, Eusapia, 50-65, 141, 
142, 192, 233, 264. 

Papal opposition, 51. 

“Paradise,” 237. 

Parker, Commodore, 3. 

Patterson, S. E., 194. 

Patterson, Sarah, 182. 

Pecoraro, Nino, 159. 

Penylan, Wallace, 233. 

Philip of Neri, St., 234. 

Phillipi, Mons., 43. 

Phillips, Watts, 19. 

“Philosophy, preternatural,” 31. 
Photographers of England, Crewe, 
123, 136. 

Photographic memory, 257. 
Photography, Case for Spirit , 197. 
Photography, spirit, 117-137. 
Pierce, President, 269. 

Pieron, Professor, 178. 

Pinetti, 254. 

Pitcher, Orville, 232. 

Podmore, Frank, 41, 79, 120, 121. 
Poe, Edgar Allan, 229. 

“Poking Them in the Eye,” 163. 
Politikon, 177. 

Polk, President, 249. 

Portal, Cochet M., 172. 


Portal, Mme., 172. 

Popular Mechanics , 145. 

Post , London, 25. 

Powell, Ellis, 155. 

Powell, Evan, 238. 

Powell, Frederick E., 88, 93, 155, 

158. 

Powers, “occult,” 2. 

Powles, John, 185. 

“Preternatural philosophy,” 31. 
Price, Harry, 128. 

Prince, Ph.D., Walter Franklin 

159, 160. 

Psychic Phenomena , , Reality of, 
173. 

Psychic Science, British College 
of, 211. 

Psychical Association, Interna- 
tional, 145. 

Psychical College, London, 116. 
Psychical Research, Society of, 
41, 52, 53, 124, 163, 168, 173, 
177, 196, 252, 258, 261. 
Psychical Science, Experiments 
in, 173. 

Psychological Studies, Conference 
to the, 34. 

Punch, 139. 

Pyne, Warner C., 54, 57. 

Race, destiny of the, 229. 
“Rappings,” 2. 

Rasputin, 43. 

Reade, Charles, 19. 

Red Cross, American, 188. 
“Revelation, The New,” 164, 202. 
Revelations of a Spirit Medium, 
79. 

Revue Spirits, 33, 120. 

Rhys, M., 36. 

Richet, Professor, 51. 

Richmond, Dr. C. M., 12. 
Rickards, Harry, 18. 



292 


INDEX 


Rinn, Joseph F., 54, 57, 61, 145. 
Robin, Henri, 33. 

Robinson, William E., 79. 
Rope-tie, Davenport, 18, 20-24. 
Rope tricks, 17-37, 114, 258. 
Rosenthal, Baroness, 68, 70, 78. 
Rosner, 248. 

Rule, Margaret, 234. 

Russia, Czar of, 43, 99, 243. 
Rymer, Bendigo, 40. 

Rymer, J. S., 40. 

Sal omen, Editha, 67, 68, 70. 
Sanhedrim of Judgment, 164. 
Sargent, John W., 54, 58, 65, 269. 
Savonarola, 234. 

Scheibner, 83. 

Scheldrup, Dr., 177. 

Scientific American , 158, 160. 
Scientific American staff, 159. 
Scofield, Dr. A. T., 143. 

Scott, Edgar, 57. 

“Second Sight,” 254, 259. 
“Second sight artists,” 259. 
Sedgwick, Professor, 51. 

Seeing in the dark, 257, 258. 
Sellers, Coleman, 85. 

Seybert Commission, 9, 83-84, 86, 
94, 193, 194, 195, 197, 262. 
Seybert, Henry, 193, 194. 
Seymour, Mr., 128. 

Shakespeare, 229. 

Shireen, 254. 

Siebert, Frau, 178. 

“Sir ” 226. 

Sixth Circle, Spirit of, 229. 

Slade confession, 95, 99. 

Slade, Dr. Henry, 30, 79, 80, 101, 
195, 196, 260, 262. 

Slate writing, 79, 84, 101, 260. 
Society, evils of, 229. 

Society for the Study of Super- 
normal Pictures, 126. 


Society of American Magicians, 
54, 88, 210. 

Society of Spiritualists, 2. 
Sothem, Edward A., 30. 

Sphinx, The, 264, 265. 

“Spirit, disembodied,” 2, 6. 
“Spirit extras,” 122, 124, 126, 
127, 128, 129, 132, 133. 

Spirit intercourse, 211. 

Spirit manifestations, 1. 

Spirit photography, 117-137. 
Spirit Messenger, 229. 

Spirit states, 79. 

Spirit world, 2. 

Spiritual Athenaeum, The, 44. 
Spiritual children, 271. 

Spiritual Institution, 231. 
Spiritual Magazine, 200. 
Spiritualism, 51, 203, 232, 242. 
Spiritualism, by-products of, 180. 
Spiritualism, Fallacies of, 188. 
Spiritualism, Report on, 198. 
Spiritualism, Researches in, 184. 
Spiritualism, The Death Blow to, 
14, 271. 

Spiritualism, the founders of, 
1-16. 

“Spiritualistic Humbugs,” 118. 
Spiritualist Society, 130. 
Spiritualist, The, 33. 

Spiritualist, Wanderings of a, 
238. 

Spiritualist, what you must be- 
lieve to be a, 229. 
Spiritualists, General Assembly 
of, 156, 180. 

Stamislaski, S. D., 178. 
Stamislawa, 178. 

Stange, Prof. Frederick, 177. 

Star, London, 124. 

Star of Truth, 229. 

Stead, 145, 146, 239, 267. 

Stewart, Alvin, 276. 



INDEX 


293 


Stewart, Jessie K., 159. 

Stokes, Edward S., 71. 

Stormer, Dr., 177. 

St. Paul, 76. 

Stuart, Anna, 239. 

Subconscious mind, 223. 

Sun , New York, 77, 78, 156, 
157. 

“Sunset,” Alvin Stewart, 276. 

See also Stewart, Alvin. 
Swinburne, 19. 

“Swindle,” Fox, 16. 

Table levitation, 50, 54, 57, 71. 
Telegraph , London, 172. 
Telepathists, 258. 

Telepathy, 259. 

Telepathy , Genuine and Fraudu - 
lent , 52. 

That Other World , 43. 

Theocrat , The , 187. 

“Theocratic Unity,” 77. 
Theosophical Society, 238. 

There Is No Death, 185, 239. 
Thomas Brothers, 147, 148. 
Thompson, Mrs.* 178, 215. 
Thompsons, the, 144, 145, 146, 
150. 

Thomson, Clarence, 145. 
Thornton, Jeanette, 279. 

Thurs, Bergen Vigelius, 181. 
Tiedemann, Dr. Heinrich, 95, 99. 
Times , London, 42, 77, 242. 
Times , New York, 60, 61, 73, 76, 
160, 172, 182. 

T im es -Picayu ne, New Orleans, 
145. 

Times, Washington, D. C., 181. 
Tomchik, Mme., 166. 

Tomson, Elizabeth Allen, 159. 
Torture Cell Mystery, 167. 
Transcendental Physics , 80. 
Tribune , Oakland, 149. 


“Tricks, all mediums indulge in,” 
63. 

Trollope, T. A., 42. 

Troup, Dr., 177. 

Truesdell, John W., 87, 88. 

Truth, 125, 164, 229. 

Truth a Companion to the Bible, 
The , 188. 

Tuttle, Hudson, 95, 99. 

Twain, Mark, 229. 

Tyndall, Professor John, 198, 199, 

200 . 

Underhill, Mrs., 7, 8, 9. 
Unmasking of Robert Houdin, 
The, 252, 257. 

Valentine, 159, 160. 

Van Buren, President, 277. 
Veamacombe, Mr., 123, 126, 127. 
Verdier, M., 172. 

Verley, Cromwell, 200. 

Von Schrenk-Notzing, Baron, 174, 
179. 

Walker, William, 160, 196, 197. 
Wallace, Mr., 199. 

Wanderings of a Spiritualist, The, 
40. 

Weber, Professor, 51, 83. 

Weekly Dispatch, 273. 

Weiss, Remigius, 94, 99, 100. 
Wertheimer, Mr., 95, 98. 

Wesley, John* 229. 

Whipple, Sydney B., 278, 279. 
White, C. H., 229. 

White, Eliza, 235. 

Whitefield, John, 229. 

Widow's Mite and Other Psychic 
Phenomena , 11, 275. 

Wilde, Oscar, 229, 256. 

Wilhelm, I., Kaiser, 248, 249. 



294 


INDEX 


Williams, 81, 230, 231, 232, 
241. 

Wilmann, Karl, 248. 

Wilson, M.D., A. M., 265. 
Windsor, H. H., 145. 

World , New York, 5, 11, 12, 13, 
77, 182, 236. 

“World, Ten Super-women of 
the,” 19. 

Worrell, Richard I., 160. 


Wynn, Rev. Walter, 125. 

Wynne, 273. 

Young, Harry F., 140. 

Young, Mrs., 235. 

Zancig, Jules, 210. 

Zancig, Mrs., 212. 

Zancigs, the, 258. 

Zollner, Professor, 51, 80, 82, 83, 
196.